Thursday, April 16, 2015

Remember That Time National Tried Forcing Mentally Ill People Into The Workforce?

There was an article doing the rounds on social media last night about how National secretly plotted to force mentally ill beneficiaries into work. While it dates from mid-2013, given Budget Season invariably brings out exactly the same pernicious and destructive prioritization of fiscal impacts over the lives of ordinary kiwis ... I think it's totally worth raising it again as an emblematic example of what this government's about.

The idea itself was simple enough:

Pay private sector companies up to $12,000 per beneficiary to get some of the most vulnerable people in our welfare system off benefits and out into the workforce. Insist they do it inside six months; and have WINZ-run referrals to private make-work schemes for those whom even WINZ has to concede are too unwell to actually engage in full-time work.

Or, in slightly more realistic terms ... National came up with a scheme to do two of its favourite things at once: heartlessly reduce beneficiary numbers while funneling public money into private (corporate) hands.

It does, of course, also occur that if National was serious about helping beneficiaries with "entrenched" mental health issues - and wasn't adverse to throwing twelve grand a head at the issue - then they'd presumably get *much* better results out of *actually increasing the funding available to said beneficiaries for counselling, therapies and other support services* instead of trying to force them into work and hoping the private sector can provide adequate support to them once they're in there.

But then, how would National enrich its mates in the corporate sector?

We found out about this scheme, because some hella-courageous Ministry of Social Development employee dared to leak the documents proving its existence to the media. They must have been seriously concerned about the potential human cost of treating seriously unwell people as problems and labour units rather than fellow Kiwis in need of support and assistance.

As we careen towards yet another round of heartless bene-bashing as part of #Budget2015, I'm left lamenting the fact that the Ministers responsible for rolling out such policies don't possess similar scruples.

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