I've become convinced that I will know the last person on the unemployment benefit in Wellington. Over the previous few years, as they've been tightening up access to the unmployment benefit, the main effect is that people have got better about sharing tips. Political activists generally have the resources and the inclination to fight bureaucracy. I've also done union education to union members, it is clear that most people have neither the information or the energy.
Tightening up access to benefits doesn't mean that only the deserving gets them. It makes sure only those who are prepared to fight get them.
Lets look at an example of this - one of the many changes the government is currently proposing to our benefit system:
Sixteen and 17 year olds are able to access Domestic Purposes Benefit for the Care of the Sick and Infirm (DPB:CSI). In terms of long term outcomes it is preferable for young people to be engaged in education or training. The eligibility criteria will be tightened so that for 16 and 17 year olds DPB:CSI is only available when there is no other carer after consideration has been given to alternative arrangements and family circumstances.This sounds perfectly reasonable. I'd hate the idea of a 16 or 17 year old giving full-time care to a relative, they're too young for it.
But lets see what it would mean for a 16 or 17 year old who was the only person available to care for her mother who has
The first thing that'll happen is they'll ring the contact centre, who will give them at least one piece of inaccurate information.* Then they'll get an appointment with a case manager who will either tell them that there's no problem, of course they can have the DPB, and not to worry about anything, or that there's no way that they can have the DPB because they're sixteen.
When (and if) she gets told that she can only get the DPB if she is the only person available then she will have to meet Work and Income's test. Obviously this hoop isn't set yet, but given the way most Work and Income systems work lets assume that it'll involve the discretion of the case-manager, and some documentation. We'll cut her a break here and assume that her family circumstances aren't painful - that she's OK disclosing the reason that she's the only person available to care for her mother to a perfect stranger. But she will have to find that documentation, she will have to find someone to care for her mother while she does this, she probably doesn't drive, so this all happens on public transport, and it may not be cheap.
Remember this is just the additional hoop. Even to get this point she will have had to get a medical certificate saying that her mother needs full-time care. She probably won't know about this requirement until she talks to WINZ, so that's an additional trip to the doctor (who knows where that money is coming from).
All this so a 16 year old can look after her parent full time for $175 a week.
* This (and other comments about WINZ workers) isn't supposed to be a comment on the workers at the contact centre, who have a very stressful job, but instead on the training they are provided.