The case for the New Zealand welfare system

I am writing this in support of the extra assistance and social services available in New Zealand. I am writing because I see people saying that New Zealand should ditch its social welfare network, that people who are offered help have no incentive to help themselves. I want to show that contrary to the beliefs of those people, such assistance is well worth the effort.

From an early stage, when my parents realized I had issues such as hand-eye co-ordination, hearing and speech impediments, I have had to have assistance to overcome these problems. In my early days at Waimairi Primary School numerous problems were picked up. One thing that happened was trips to an occupational therapist that my school organized. To at least one session a teacher also went to see if they could learn anything that would help them spot issues in other students.

At High School it was found that whilst I could answer exam questions, a writing impediment meant I often could not finish answers before time ran out. As a result my marks were often lower than what they would have been had I finished them. Thus a writer was made available as was an extra 10 minutes for every hour of the exam.

In 2000, after finishing High School, I enrolled at Hagley Community College. Back then my G.P. thought because of my blood pressure I could not work full time and should only do something that involved several hours a week of work. Thus I applied for a Disability Benefit. The combination of holding down a 12 hour per week job and having the benefit that I was on, enabled me to go through a Bachelor of Science undergraduate degree in 3 1/2 years. It enabled me to pay off all of my student fees when they were due and not have to apply for a student loan. From February 2005 to the end of 2006 I worked on a Postgraduate Diploma of Science also at University of Canterbury, which was also paid for in full and on time each year.

From 2011, after four years holding down full time work, I had to apply for income assistance after my job ended in the Christchurch earthquake. I decided in a city with not much in the way of jobs going to retrain and did a business administration course that was funded by a study allowance – which actually provided me less money per week than the unemployment benefit.

I am now working on a Postgraduate Diploma of Planning, which I am able to do under my own steam. Out of that I hope to get a planning job at Ministry for Environment, a local council or work for a consultant. Like many others in the wake of COVID19, I have had to reduce the hours I work and my employer was able to qualify for the work subsidy. Without that I would probably have had to drop the Diploma.

Without the support I got from the New Zealand welfare system along the way, I would not have achieved nearly half of what I have managed to in my life. The same goes for a number of friends, who have benefited from the developmental assistance, and are now able to hold down jobs because of it. So before you call for the dismantling of the welfare system in the course of a political debate in the coming weeks, just remember that the purpose of it it is not to give “the lazy”, “the druggies”, and such an easy ride. A few will try to do that, but the vast majority are honest people.

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