I find the Government’s inaction on welfare to be quite baffling. Sure they have only been in office for 2 years and National had 9 years, but by now I would have thought that some substantive policy at least would be starting to make itself known to the voting public. By the same time in the Government of Prime Minister John Key several basic policies existed in outline form, which would be fleshed out over the following year.
In 2011 a person on an unemployment benefit got $204 per week. A student on a study allowance was paid $180. Thus, as I found out when I started studying for a Certificate of Business Applications at Vision College, I took a $24 per week cut in income, which across 20 weeks would have been about $480 less.
In June 2018 there were 277,000 people on the benefit. We will assume it was still $204 per week for the unemployment benefit and make that the median benefit. For 52 weeks, that is about $2.94 billion across those people. If we increased that to $250 per week across them it would come out at about $3.6 billion, which is an increase of $662,584,000.
With a surplus of $7.5 billion I think we can comfortably afford to do that.
Respectfully Minister of Development Carmel Sepuloni might mean well, but she is a Minister with completely the wrong priorities. Yes, I get that mental health is important and that we need to invest more in programmes that address its effects. Yes I get that losing someone because they committed suicide is a horrible thing.
But this is more like ambulance at the bottom of the cliff kind of stuff, when the accident – the mental health emergency – has already happened.
Ms Sepuloni would do much better to increase the benefits for several reasons, not least:
- National did not top them up during their 9 years in office
- Rents have significantly increased in that time and benefits have not kept pace
- The benefit increases will help found mental health assistance for those on low incomes that might not be affordable currently
But not only should the benefits be increased substantially, they should also be indexed so that they adjust with inflation and not get slowly eroded away.