Welfare reform in a wintry New Zealand

Britain has a rival in the contest to make social security as repellent as possible. New Zealand’s bracing programme of legislation is working hard to make the system more punitive.   Working age benefits are being reformed into three branches, for job seekers, sole parents and those requiring support. Among the reforms there are

  • three-month sanctions where benefit is either stopped or, where there are children, reduced by 50%
  • reductions in benefit for people who are subject to arrest warrants  (as this is pre-trial, I take that to refer to people who are presumed innocent)
  • an expectation of work for people who are sick
  • drug-testing for job-seekers
  • re-application for benefit after a year’s continuous receipt, and
  • registration of young children with general practices and enrolment of young children in nursery education and health care programmes (I think I agree with this one).

The sanctions may seem harsh, but by comparison with the UK’s three years and subsequent repayment or hardship payments for years more, they are almost moderate.

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