Hand-ups versus hand-outs

There is a lot of debate about whether social welfare should be no questions asked right to state funded support, or if it should be seen for most people as temporary assistance during hard times until you can become self-reliant again.

Extreme sides of the arguments range from wanting no state welfare to insisting that anyone who wants a comfortable living income and guaranteed quality housing for life should be free to choose state support.

Today’s ODT editorial looks at the hand-up versus handout arguments in the US and here, I have edited out the US references.

Here in New Zealand, our Government has been actively working to reduce the number of people on benefits, encouraging them to find work – even if critics say there are no jobs available.Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says there are 29,000 fewer New Zealanders receiving benefits since the last quarter, the lowest number at this time of the year since 2009. She ”takes her hat off” to the more than 17,600 people who went off the unemployment, domestic purposes and sickness benefits and into work in the last quarter.

And the Ministry of Social Development cancelled 525 benefits in the last quarter after it implemented an improved information sharing arrangement with Inland Revenue. According to Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows, those who had their benefits cancelled are part of a larger group of 3500 people apparently working and earning above the threshold for welfare support, and the ministry is in the process of contacting them.

With expanded information sharing possible now, major savings are being achieved. Those 525 people were receiving benefits costing $5.6 million a year. That is money they were not entitled to, and Mr Borrows is glad it has been stopped. Confirmed cases are now being processed by the ministry to establish how much money has been overpaid so it can take action to recover it.

Even so, there are still 310,146 people on benefits, including 92,550 sole parents on the domestic purposes benefit, 58,208 on sickness benefits and 48,756 on unemployment benefits. And social welfare remains the largest expenditure item on the Government’s balance sheet.

And the country cannot afford an open cheque book for welfare.

In the next three months, Work and Income staff will be trained on new welfare reforms. New Zealanders have a ”fair go” attitude and the reduction of benefit fraud will be welcome in many quarters. The loudest complaints are coming from New Zealand liberal groups saying beneficiaries will become ”cannon fodder” for politicians.

New Zealand has grasped the seriousness of a growing welfare class, and is mostly composed about changes being made to encourage a hand-up, not a hand-out.

There are some who jump on any attempt at encouraging and helping people off welfare as bennie bashing.

And there are some who want no welfare (and the same people tend to push for low or no tax).

But most will be comfortable with the concept of a reasonable level of state assistance, as long as those who are  able see it as temporary help until they can find a way to support themselves and their families.

Long term or permanent state support is essential for some people, but it should not be a choice for those who expect others to support a life style provided by those who pay taxes.

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1 Comment

  1. Darryl

     /  16th April 2013

    Hand Up only. Top marks to the National Government for Welfare Reform. Why the hell should the Tax Payer be paying for Benefit Fraudster’s. 525 caught, and I bet there is many many more. PS: any type of FRAUD should be investigated.


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