More punitive policy from National

National are rattling off policies that seem more intent on targeting voter demographics and ignoring evidence based approaches to issues.

Yesterday:

National will help more young people become drug free, move off the benefit and get a job to help ensure they reach their potential.

“Most of our young people are doing incredibly well. There are more job opportunities and more support than ever in our country, as a result of our strong economic growth,” Social Development Spokesperson Anne Tolley says.

“But some young people on a benefit need more support. National is committed to helping them into work to ensure they can stand on their own two feet.”

National will invest $72 million over the next four years to support beneficiaries under 25 years of age by:

  • Guaranteeing work experience or training for those who have been on a jobseekers benefit for six months or longer, and financial management training to help them develop financial responsibility
  • Providing rehabilitation services if drug use is identified as a barrier to employment
  • Ensuring all young people under 25 who are on a job seekers benefit receive intensive one-on-one case management to get a job.

“Only 10 per cent of young people who go on a jobseekers benefit stay for more than six months – but for those that do, their average time on benefit is almost 10 years,” Mrs Tolley says. “We want to invest early, and give them one on one support so they can develop the skills they need to move into the workforce.

“We will guarantee them access to work experience or training courses designed specifically to get them ready for work.

“In addition, one in five beneficiaries tell us that drug use is a barrier to them getting a job – so we are increasing the support we give them to kick drug use and get work ready.”

National will also place obligations on those who do not take up the significant opportunities available in New Zealand to start work or training.

A contentious component of this policy:

Job seekers without children who refuse work experience or training or recreational drug rehabilitation will lose 50 per cent of their benefit entitlement after four weeks of not meeting their obligations, with further reductions if that continues. This will also apply to those who continue to fail recreational drug tests, where these are requested by prospective employers.

The lower benefit payments will only be able to be used for essential needs such as rent and food – like we currently do with our Money Management programme for 16 to 19 year olds.

Lower benefits for drug addicts is also likely to result in them committing more crime to feed themselves and their habit.

“This significant extra support we are announcing today will come with obligations and personal responsibilities, so those who won’t take the opportunities available to them will lose all or part of their benefit until they take steps to turn their lives around.

“We know benefit sanctions are an effective tool to help people into work, as 95 per cent of people who receive a formal warning meet their obligations within four weeks.”

Any benefit reductions will be made at the discretion of WINZ staff, to take account of individual circumstances. And once individuals decide to meet their obligations, benefits will be reinstated.

“New Zealanders are creating real opportunities for themselves and for New Zealand, through hard work and a commitment to doing better. National supports those efforts and is focused on helping all New Zealanders get ahead, even our most vulnerable,” Mrs Tolley says.

The Drug Foundation has concerns about the punitive approach to dealing with drug addiction.

RNZ: New sanctions could push young beneficiaries to P

Putting further sanctions on young beneficiaries who use drugs could push them from cannabis to methamphetamine because it’s harder to detect, the Drug Foundation warns.

if an under-25 year old, with no children, refused to do work experience and training, or continued to fail drug tests, their benefit would be halved after four weeks of not meeting obligations.

Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said that risked unintended consequences.

“Drug testing can encourage people to move away from using easy to detect drugs like cannabis, to harder to detect drugs like methamphetamine,” he said.

Mr Bell argued the policy failed to take into account the stages of beating chronic drug dependency.

“Drug dependency is a chronic and relapsing condition, so people might be in recovery, but they might slip – they might fall off the wagon. Is the government going to sanction them for something that seems to be a natural part of the drug recovery process?”

Figures provided to the Drug Foundation by the Ministry of Social Development showed that of the more than 100,000 beneficiaries who failed to meet some sort of obligation in the year to the end of June 2016, just 144 of those failures were to do with drugs.

So it is a relatively small part of the problem.

Benefit advocate Kay Brereton said while the focus on young people was great, it was hard to build their trust when the threat of sanctions loomed large.

“When people’s benefits get sanctioned, they’ve got this choice between ‘do I have somewhere to live or do I eat food’. I think for the young people we’re talking about, they will choose to have food and they will have nowhere to live. They may end up couchsurfing.

“Do you want to hire someone who doesn’t even have stable accommodation – are they going to still be in the same city next week?”

But National social development spokesperson Anne Tolley said sanctions worked.

“Ninety-five percent comply, but then you know it’s a personal choice for people. Very few turn up looking for social housing, but the numbers are very small,” she said.

Addiction is not really a ‘personal choice’. It is more of a medical condition, and punitive penalties are unlikely to address that effectively.

Using beneficiaries and drug addicts to try and attract a few votes seems a silly and cynical approach, but that’s what National has been tending to do more of as they try to hold onto power.

This is disappointing. National are looking increasingly undeserving of being returned to power.

39 Comments

  1. David

     /  September 7, 2017

    Is it more punative though to leave young people to squander their lifes potential by being compensated by the taxpayer to not have the dignity of work but to sit around taking drugs. A carrot and then a stick to alter their course in life for the better could be a far more caring approach.
    Liken it to having a youth at home who sits in his bedroom smoking dope wouldnt the parent funding that lifestyle demand better choices seeing that as in the best interests of their loved child.

  2. Corky

     /  September 7, 2017

    ” Addiction is not really a ‘personal choice’. ”

    ?

  3. Gezza

     /  September 7, 2017

    * Ensuring all young people under 25 who are on a job seekers benefit receive intensive one-on-one case management to get a job.

    Bureaucrat-speak like this needs to be queried. What exactly will be involved in “one-on-one case management to get a job”.

    Other than that, why not give it a shot? If some are just using drugs recreationally & aren’t physically and/or psychologically addicted to them once some of them are in stable employment they can probably go back to having the odd toke instead of a beer as opposed to being zonked out, unmotivated, lazy & useless all day every day.

    • Gezza

       /  September 7, 2017

      No particular reason “intensive” is highlighted in yellow. Quite a surprise actually.

  4. High Flying Duck

     /  September 7, 2017

    Is imposing personal responsibility on people and adding consequences to people’s negative actions really punitive?
    The Government isn’t exactly throwing young unemployed to the wolves here.
    They are investing in early intervention, providing significant resources to make sure people can deal with the issues holding them back and become productive.
    In return they require these unemployed people to also make an effort.

    To argue that people who refuse to be helped should continue be given the full largess of the state benefits is to entrench the problem.

    Seems more like common sense than punitive policy to me.

  5. Blazer

     /  September 7, 2017

    its a very hard problem to solve.It impacts on crime rates and imprisonment ,is way more costly than what is in effect basic,existence money.

  6. duperez

     /  September 7, 2017

    In the present electoral climate describing “putting the hard word on” people, getting “tough” on them or being a “strong and determined” Government as being “punitive” is not going to be well received.

    In rational times rational people can discern the differences between “punitive” and other approaches. At the moment polling obviously shows the need to play the “strong Government card.”

    A pity Judith couldn’t play her ‘crusher’ trick and the bootcamp thing wasn’t a couple of weeks back. They’d both come in handy now.

    Steven Joyce and his strategists will be hoping for a few armed dairy robberies over the weekend and something they can build into a terrorist threat. Cynical? Of course but only at a preparatory level. Steven Joyce is at the Masters level.

    High Flying Duck is his perfectly sensible comments shows that. Why is the Government suddenly focussed on personal responsibility, investing in early intervention and providing significant resources to make sure people can deal with the issues holding them back and become productive?

    Because they haven’t been doing that for none years? Because they’ve being doing it but it hasn’t worked? Because while they’ve being doing that for nine years, they haven’t explained it?

    Or because they’re desperate and trying to present things in ways which suggest they’re not clutching at straws?

    • High Flying Duck

       /  September 7, 2017

      Good comment Duperez, although I think you are missing the fact that this isn’t knee-jerk policy. It is the continuation of the overarching complete overhaul of Government social service delivery. It gets far too little coverage and is really very cutting edge.

      The policy is a continuation of the “Social Investment” strategy that has been rolled out over the past few years.

      Bill English has taken a stand that by determining where the biggest societal problems we are dealing with begin, the Government can offer specific targeted responses to stop the issues before they begin.

      There are critics of this and definitely areas that should be watched as it involves using big data and taking pre-emptive action on many sectors, but if successful it could revolutionise Government support services.

      Toby Manhire wrote a realtively even handed article on it here:

      http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11850212

      People who don’t bother looking continue to talk about “running out of ideas” and “do nothing government”, but if you look further this Government has significantly changed the landscape in a number of areas and continues to be quite innovative in how it is dealing with the delivery of Government services.

      Whether you agree with what they are doing or not is another matter.

      • duperez

         /  September 7, 2017

        We’ve sort of been to this movie before on these pages, at the time of some young people in Kaikohe doing some thuggish things. The calls came of course to send them to ‘bootcamp.’
        And make their parents responsible and liable.

        “Bill English has taken a stand that by determining where the biggest societal problems we are dealing with begin, the Government can offer specific targeted responses to stop the issues before they begin.”

        Is that acknowledgement that the behaviour of those kids in Kaikohe getting to that point could have begun with the lack of economic development in the mid-north through the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s? That social decline follows economic decline and to deal with and “stop the issues before they begin” a helluva a lot of innovative thinking is needed? Not the simple (metaphorical) lock ’em up and throw away the key?

        • High Flying Duck

           /  September 7, 2017

          You are point blank ignoring the huge resource being put into direct aid for these people, and focusing on what happens if those being offered aid refuse to take it but still want to live off the state.

  7. Gezza

     /  September 7, 2017

    What are you trying to get across here?

    • Gezza

       /  September 7, 2017

      Sorry – that’s @ dupers, re his ramble above.

      • duperez

         /  September 7, 2017

        The current strategy from the Government is to go all out to be seen to be tough.

        Being seen to be tough could gather some redneck votes. Peter George says, “targeting voter demographics and ignoring evidence based approaches to issues.”

        Consistently Anne Tolley and Hekia Parata talked about evidence and data based approaches and decision making. Consistently when it has suited their argument though research and evidence has been ignored. In the electoral panic that’s happening again. In the hubbub you can say anything hoping that one bit will strike a chord with one voter. There’s no time for rational discussion before there’s the next issue, then the next, all with their good but many seriously needing questioning.

        • Gezza

           /  September 7, 2017

          I totally disagree of course. HFD covers the issue well above. I think this targeted intervention strategy has been well thought through & hope it produces good results. A pity the focus is on the so called punitive provisions for slackarses. But they mght benefit from a kick up the bum?

    • PDB

       /  September 7, 2017

      Especially when the alternative answer from the left appears to be throw more money at these particular young people (who average around 10 years on the benefit) no questions asked/ no obligations required? That’ll fix it.

  8. Patzcuaro

     /  September 7, 2017

    Young people who are on benefits should be ready and able to work on Monday morning. That means not being impaired by alcohol or drugs. I’ve no problem with them being tested by MSD, they are receiving support from the taxpayer and their end of the contract is to ready for work or training.

    • phantom snowflake

       /  September 7, 2017

      This is hardly news, but a positive drug test certainly doesn’t prove impairment. Cannabis smoked a few weeks ago may produce a positive test, even though after this time the cannabis usage has no effect on the individual’s “work-readiness”. Bill English is a dinosaur; the last of our nation’s ‘moral conservative’ political leaders, and with him at the helm we should expect nothing more than punishment and ‘othering’ of those who break his moral code.
      Incidentally, it is possible to measure impairment caused by cannabis consumption. (e.g. in relation to driving) A friend received a conviction for driving under the influence of cannabis in Germany. He had tested positive to a roadside saliva test for THC, and a subsequent blood test showed blood levels of THC which were above a figure which was considered to indicate impairment. I believe research was used to reach this figure. Such a nuanced approach seems far too sophisticated for past, present and probably future governments here.

      • High Flying Duck

         /  September 7, 2017

        So a positive drug test doesn’t prove impairment, but tests exist that can prove impairment based on research.

        Got it.

        • phantom snowflake

           /  September 7, 2017

          Not sure if you’re trying to be funny or what, so I’ll spell it out for you. Research is conducted with a group who have smoked cannabis and driven afterwards. Their driving is expertly assessed, and their blood levels of THC are measured. This allows correlations to be made between the level of impairment of driving ability and blood levels of THC. A level is then set at which most people with this amount of THC in their blood will be impaired. Should I have used smaller words?

          • Gezza

             /  September 7, 2017

            The problem with testing for cannabis use is it stays in your system & is detectable for days after use. But the actual period in which it might be impairing your motor skills, concentration etc is pretty short, a few hours at most.

          • High Flying Duck

             /  September 7, 2017

            Your verbosity was fine thanks Phant.
            But I have no sympathy with people who are living off the state not wanting to follow the rules imposed for doing so.
            Once they are self relient they can fill their boots. Until then, with rights come responsibilities, and it isn’t exactly onerous to meet them,

      • Gezza

         /  September 7, 2017

        Ah what the hell they can just stop smoking it for a year or two to get & keep a job. I did because I couldn’t afford it when we got married & we were saving every cent to get th deposit for a house.

        • phantom snowflake

           /  September 7, 2017

          Nothing wrong with abstinence, but also nothing wrong with moderate recreational use. I can’t see why the latter should be harshly punished, for me it’s about fairness.

          • Gezza

             /  September 7, 2017

            For me it’s about them stopping making excuses getting a job and turning up to work on time so they earn their own keep.

            • phantom snowflake

               /  September 7, 2017

              Yes, National may win a few votes by playing the Beneficiary Card, just as they have recently played the LauraNorda Card.

            • Gezza

               /  September 7, 2017

              Labour & the Greens are playing the Beneficiary & Lawn Order Cards too – what people have to decide is whose approach is likely to produce the best results for the people concerned.

              Those whose attitude hasn’t fundmentally shifted from “Hey I didn’t ask to be born so you have to give me what I need” that a lot of teenagers come out with at some point do actually need to be told “well, you’re here, sunshine, & the world doesn’t owe you a living”, like we were!

            • phantom snowflake

               /  September 7, 2017

              Things are not always as they appear. Sometimes the attitude you mentioned can be a mask which is hiding low self-confidence or poor literacy, for example. Bill English will always favour the carrot over the stick on account of his catholic god who punishes billions with burning in hell for eternity.

            • phantom snowflake

               /  September 7, 2017

              FAIL. I meant “the stick over the carrot”!

            • Gezza

               /  September 7, 2017

              I think you need to look again at what their policy is. It is to put more resources in to address issues like those. This is our media proves itself to be rubbish again. They don’t seem to be asking questions abput that. Just looking to highlight the cue: opposition parties & alarmists rant & criticise without knowing details.

            • phantom snowflake

               /  September 7, 2017

              I’ll happily admit to being a “ranting alarmist.” I guess what bothers me most is the apparent Empathy Deficit of those who are currently in power with regard to those who are at the bottom of the heap, and the willingness to cynically use this group to buy a few votes. Being on a benefit is no freakin’ holiday!!

    • PDB

       /  September 7, 2017

      You are confusing this: “Last year, there were 31,791 referrals for drug testable positions nationwide and just 55 sanctions for failing a drug test, according to Ministry of Social Development (MSD) figures.”

      With this: “In addition, one in five beneficiaries tell us that drug use is a barrier to them getting a job – so we are increasing the support we give them to kick drug use and get work ready.”

      One is people that actually tried to pass a work drug test with some failing, the other is a survey of beneficiaries, 20% of which have said that drug use is a barrier to work (likely they don’t even bother going for jobs requiring a drug test knowing they will fail).

      • phantom snowflake

         /  September 7, 2017

        You’re right in a way; the two sets of figures are not exactly equivalent. However the huge discrepancy between less than 0.2% (55 of 31791) and 20% is telling. As is Anne Tolley’s (office) refusal to reveal sample size or methodology.

  9. duperez

     /  September 7, 2017

    Oops, speak of the devil, on cue, Collins is coming on strong about petrol prices.🐄

  10. There is a song out now about theses issues, released to coincide with the election: