The Social Security Legislation Rewrite Bill attempts to re-codify the pernicious welfare changes it has passed since it took office; and sneaks in some even worse changes in the guise of making the Act read more smoothly.
The 2012 welfare changes included requiring mothers with children as young as three, (or even babies, for a second child), to be looking for work. The law forces mothers to put their children into early childhood institutions, which are sometimes very poor quality and can be traumatic for the child. If they refuse, or miss an appointment, single parent families face fifty per cent sanctions, which could go on for weeks, months or even indefinitely.
People without children face 100% sanctions for the most trivial of offences, such as being five minutes late for an appointment.
In addition to this, shockingly, the government abolished the sickness benefit, instead making nearly all sick people "job seekers" unless they went through enormous hoops to prove long term sickness or disability. This has led to cancer patients being forced to constantly look for work or to prove that they are too sick to work.
Nowhere does National recognise the importance and value of parenting and caring, which is evident in Bill English's use of an archaic veto to prevent the Paid Parental Leave Bill from being passed; even though it has the support of the majority in parliament. This Bill would have extended paid parental leave to 6 months, which is tiny compared to what is available in some countries.
National's relentless work focus (which was also pursued by Labour) puts placing people on the labour market, to compete with each other and increase employers' profits; before the human and social needs it should be addressing.
The same approach has seen National sell off our state housing at a time of crisis levels of housing shortages!
National places corporate profits, and punishing the poor; above meeting any social obligations whatsoever.
The Social Security Rewrite Bill reinforces section 70A of the Social Security Act which punishes single mothers who do not name the father of the child. Mothers may not either want or be able to name the father for very good reasons, such as fear of violence, or the pregnancies being a product of rape or sexual abuse. In the Rewrite Bill section 70A is replaced by three sections, Sections 176, 177, and 178 which drum the same message, that mothers and their children must pay, with huge financial sanctions, for the fathers who don't meet their financial obligations.
With these punitive clauses almost universally affecting women, including many Māori, who are the poorest in society; the Bill is sexist, classist and racist.
Unite Waitemata believes that the Social Security Act 1964 needs to be re-written to include the principles of society's responsibility towards people in need , that were present in our original excellent Social Security Act 1938. This needs to be updated to include rights for women and Māori, and to recognise the importance and value of parenting and caring work; and society's obligation to support this. All references to job seeking and sanctions should be deleted from the Act.
Additionally, the government needs to create real jobs, in other legislation; but job uptake should not be attempted by punishing people who cannot do paid work because of health needs or caring obligations; or because no jobs are available.
In these times of precarious work, all workers and beneficiaries need to Unite against welfare cuts, which put the entire working class in danger! Save the welfare state!
Below is our submission, with many thanks to Auckland Action Against Poverty, and to Catriona MacLennan, for nearly all of the material in our submission.
The material in Part A comes from Catriona MacLennan's article in the NZ Herald, entitled 10 Ways to Fix NZ's Welfare State, on 16 June 2016 .
"[C]itizens of the Dominion are insuring themselves against the economic hardships that would otherwise follow those natural misfortunes from which no one is immune."