Simon Collins has a story in the Herald today about the Government's proposed welfare reforms; check this out:
Melanie Hoto, 33, worked in a lunch bar on the North Shore and then at a fish market in Tauranga but eventually ended up on the DPB."I came back to Auckland and lost interest [in work]. It was so hard trying to find work. I even applied to work here at McDonald's," she says over a hot chocolate at McDonald's in Glen Innes."In the end I fell pregnant with my daughter and I thought, 'I get a good amount of money on the benefit, why bother working?"'Her partner "was never in the picture"."It was a one-night stand," she says. "He's in jail now for robbing a shop. He was into drugs - a lot of people are into it, it's easy cash."She realised later that the benefit was hardly enough to live on and got work in restaurants and rest homes while her daughter, now 6, was at kohanga and then kindergarten. But each job ended, for various reasons, and she found herself back on the benefit.She became pregnant again recently near the end of a two-year relationship that she left because her partner was obsessively controlling. She says she would not have let herself fall pregnant if the new law had been in force."I would have been more cautious about what I do in that department. I just think it's not fair [to have a] child if you're not going to be there."Another woman, Renee, became pregnant with a flatmate while on the benefit when her first two children were 8 and 5, and says it "was never a boyfriend/girlfriend thing". She also thinks the new law is "fair"."If the law had been in place, I just would have been probably more cautious," she says.At another McDonald's recently, she overheard two young mothers with babies talking about how they were trying to get pregnant again."I'm loving this benefit shit," one said. "I'm going to have another baby, I'll keep having them, it's free money."
Over the last few years we've done quite a bit voluntary work. And the story that Collins reports at the foot of that extract is one that sadly, we've heard over and over again. We certainly don't believe that this was what Michael Joseph Savage had in mind when the Welfare State was established way back before we were born.
So how can this be rolled back, given that we are a generation on from the Bolger/Richardson benefit cuts of the early 1990's. And what future do those children who are effectively being conceived as "free money" have?
Of course, not all those on benefits are looking to rip the system off. But a growing number sees the state as its meal ticket. A society is judged on how well it looks after its most vulnerable, but those who abuse the system make things a lot tougher for those in genuine need of state support.
Welfare is a very emotive issue, but it is also one that has a significant economic effect; the more people on welfare and the fewer earning and paying taxes, the greater the burden on every taxpayer. The Government is trying to strike a balance between fairness and affordability, and for every person who is critical of the moves to transition people off benefits and into work, there will be someone who says that the pace of reform is not fast enough.