Last week, the National-led government announced a change of quite a radical nature to the way in which welfare would be provided to the youth population aged between 16 and 18 years.
I believe welfare, as we know it, should be reformed. It was first introduced to this country by Prime Minister Richard John Seddon in 1898, then radically changed by the Labour Government of 1935. From then on, the welfare system has had a number of changes. For example, the Domestic Purposes Benefit was brought in by the Kirk/Rowling Government in 1973. At that time it was meant to be a safety mechanism for married women wanting to escape an abusive relationship.
With men the major income earners, women were having to stay in unhealthy relationships.
At the time the policy was brought in, something like 84 women were thought to require this assistance. Today it costs $1.4 billion. Kirk never dreamed it would be used in this way.
In 2005, the Clark Labour government announced Working for Families, a policy directed to middle class voters, making them paid welfare beneficiaries.
We are a compassionate society that have hardwired into our DNA a requirement to support those down on their luck. The system we have created actually locks up to 15-20% of beneficiaries into a welfare trap. Unless we deliver welfare differently, we ensure that they become inter-generational failures. Not all are bad beneficiaries. In fact, most beneficiaries are short-term. However 15-20% of them become entrapped and know no way out of the prison of welfare dependency.
Since 1935, we have designed well-intentioned support groups – case managers from WINZ, social workers from Housing New Zealand, care and protection and youth justice workers from CYFS, police youth aid workers, probation officers from Corrections, truancy officers from Education, etc.
We have developed government interventions by a bunch of well-intentioned bureaucrats. On the street, we call this management of people problems by third-party alien. They have no performance indicators to achieve anything other than processing these people. These third-party aliens have ensured that beneficiaries owe everything to them and nothing to the community.
We must have targeting but it can only be through community groups that deliver by that community, for that community, and through that community to ensure they have pride in themselves and can trade out of dependence.
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