Friday 19 July 2013

Booking Beneficiaries Into Rehab

It's For Their Own Good: Equating beneficiaries with drug addicts has long been one of the Right's most potent rhetorical strategies against the welfare state. It has now been given the official imprimatur of the Ministry of Social Development's senior medical advisor. What's next: "Arbeit Macht Frei" ?
THE EVIDENCE is said to be compelling: “for most individuals, working improves health and wellbeing and reduces psychological distress.” In fact, so convinced of the health benefits of employment is the Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD) senior health advisor, Dr David Bratt, that he equates putting patients on “welfare” with putting them on “an addictive debilitating drug with significant adverse effects to both the patient and their family (whanau) not dissimilar to smoking.”
Just think about that for a moment. The MSD’s senior health advisor is telling his fellow doctors that helping their patients access the state assistance to which, as citizens, they are legally entitled, is the same as “putting them on” methamphetamine, heroin or some other kind of “addictive debilitating drug”.
The Right’s decades-long rhetorical effort to associate being on a benefit with being hooked on drugs has thus been given the imprimatur of settled medical science. Henceforth, going to the MSD will be the equivalent of checking yourself into rehab. Everything that happens to you there will be about getting you off your welfare addiction and back into the healthy lifestyle of paid employment.
Of course, as medically verified drug addicts, the “welfare dependent” citizens themselves have no opinions worth considering. Everybody knows that junkies lie, cheat, steal – even prostitute themselves – to feed their habit. It is, therefore, vital that they not be mollycoddled by their case workers at the MSD. What is required, and what will, from now on, be meted out to these “addicts” is the “tough love” they so desperately need – and which the failed policies of “welfare entitlement” have for so long denied them.
And, just in case there are people out there in the community who object to this characterisation of New Zealand’s pioneering Welfare State as nothing more than a government sponsored tinnie house, the Ministry of Social Development has instituted a regime involving compulsory drug testing for “jobseekers”; tough sanctions for those with outstanding arrest warrants; and mandatory attendance at classes devoted to imparting parenting skills.
Which is as clear a way of delivering the message: “these people are all drug-taking criminals who persistently neglect and abuse their children”; as the MSD’s bureaucratic masters are willing to venture.
The National Party-led Government’s dramatic reform of New Zealand’s social welfare system marks an ominous turning-point in the country’s history. Never before has the state been willing to satisfy so completely the most punitive, the cruellest and the most nakedly sociopathic impulses of its wealthiest citizens.
The people behind these reforms know that there are simply not enough jobs to socially integrate the tens-of-thousands of “jobseekers” currently registered on the MSD’s books. And yet, they have no intention of following the example set by previous New Zealand Governments, in which the state itself provided the jobs so necessary to people’s health and wellbeing.
What they propose to do, instead, is force as many jobseekers as possible off the MSD’s books. They will achieve this objective by turning the experience of being on the MSD’s books into a nightmare of bureaucratic harassment and social stigmatisation.
Before the rest of New Zealand could accept such callous brutalisation, however, the National Party-led Government had first to transform welfare beneficiaries into useless and undeserving sub-humans. Their poverty had to be presented as the consequence of their own lack of application and self-discipline. They had to become idle ingrates: drug addicts and criminals; totally unworthy of decent people’s respect or compassion.
And now, because it is not made up of monsters, and for the sake of their hapless children, the Government is insisting that these creatures somehow be “persuaded” to turn their lives around. This time, however, the persuasion is not going to involve the use of carrots. This time the MSD is going to use a stick.
And, just as they were in Germany 75 years ago, the doctors are being asked to help. We must hope that Kiwi physicians turn out to be less enthusiastic social-engineers.
This essay was originally published in The Dominion Post, The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 19 July 2013.


Kat said...

Those last words of Helens referring to all the gains going up in a 'Tory Bonfire' were uncannily prophetic. I suspect when this this National led govt finally does goes down it will also be in a flaming heap.

It's hard to even comment on how outrageous this latest round of Bene bashing is. This is Carrington ECT all over again. Stuff Godwins law, this Key led nightmare govt is facist to the core.

Anonymous said...

Rather than comparing to nazis, why not engage the proposition which is that benefits equate to “an addictive debilitating drug with significant adverse effects to both the patient and their family (whanau) not dissimilar to smoking.”

True or false?

If true, then constantly bolstering the welfare state makes the state a drug dealer or even more of a "nazi" if people enjoy that sort of simile.

If false, then prove him wrong and let people form their own judgments with no need to refer to nazis.

Mark said...

Kat you're getting hysterical.

Brendan McNeill said...

Yes, and over 3,000 of these good people have been found to be defrauding the New Zealand tax payer to the tune of $33 Million over the last six months, only revealed since 'data matching' has been taking place.

Some of these we are told may be prosecuted.

Just imagine if over 3,000 businesses were found to be defrauding the IRD to this extent, do you imagine that only 'some of these' might be prosecuted?

I'm sorry Chris, but there is so much dysfunction and abuse of the tax payer happening at this end of the social spectrum that some accountability needs to start happening. It's long over due and well supported by the New Zealand public.

Find another axe to grind.

Kind regards

jack said...

As a Beneficiary sub human I think you and the rest are vermin including that piece of rubbish known as John Key! What do you think of that scum??? You self satisfied parasite on the media?

Jigsaw said...

Amazing that you can actually say that the government should be providing jobs so that beneficaries can feel good about themselves. The fact that such a system is obviously unsustainable doesn't seem to occur. When we did that it always had a end point. In the best years(economically)of the Clark government there were still some 300,000 on welfare. Everyone knows of someone who isn't working but could work and that they are working and paying taxes to support. There is going to be an increasing mis-match of the lack of skills with an ever increasing demand for skilled people. This is a popular measure and much as the left hates the idea, people paying too much in taxes see a huge connection to people who either don't want to work or don't make the effort to get saleable skills. We don't want to be another Greece.

Richard Christie said...


Benefit fraud vs tax evasion
a graph:

Kat said...

Ha! 30million benefit fraud vs 1billion tax fraud.

NO hysteria here, just seething anger at the hypocrisy and political expediency of it all.

Anonymous said...

"just as they were in Germany 75 years ago, the doctors are being asked to help."

You are better than this.

Michael Gibson said...

Bratt's evidence is commercially manufactured bullshit, via the Welfare Working group, via Mansell Aylward, via Cardiff University, via UNUM Group. The last is a US-based insurance company ordered to pay millions of $$$ for denying disability benefits due under insurance contracts in bad faith. UNUM spent a lot of time, and earned a lot of taxpayers' money, "assisting" the UK government to develop its welfare policies (the ones leading to many deaths and suicides and many decisions overturned by the Courts). Among UNUM's gifts to the people of the UK is a department at Cardiff University, from whence issues quasi academic "research", "proving" that welfare benefits make people sick.
That department is headed by Aylward, who golden parachuted from his job at the UK Department of Work and Pensions (as the Dr Bratt equivalent). Aylward junketed to NZ last year, where he shared his research with the government (Minister Paula Benefit quoted it in the House when introducing the latest round of beneficiary bashing). I have published work, criticising UNUM/Aylward's work as fraudulent. ACC has employed the same tropes here for some time. No surprises, when one learns that it had shares in UNUM at the time it was doing its worst to Amreicans. Now it's WINZ's turn, using many of the same doctors ACC uses to shaft injury victims. No matter - most of the people shafted by the medical police are poor, with differently-coloured skins to the middle classes. Many of them suffer from brain injuries, or sexual abuse, and are simply too fucked to defend themselves. It's just as well we've scrapped the welfare state. Now, about those tax cuts?

Anonymous said...

Brendan showing typical confirmation bias. We don't know how many people are defrauding the state because we don't know how many of these people have deliberately and knowingly collected the benefit without any right to it. We don't know how many of these are genuine mistakes. Typical of the right to jump on the 1st piece of hysterical rubbish that is published.

Michael Gibson said...

None of these people have actually been "found" to be guilty of anything. A datasearch of another bureaucratic empire merely indicates they may have been overpaid their benefits. MSD is well-known for cocking up benefit payments and overpaying them even after people tell it about their earnings. MSD is also well-known for telling lies about the extent of beneficiary fraud. Some years ago, its officials were forced to apologise for telling lies to a Parliamentary select committee about the extent of such fraud (but only after the news media ran shrieking headlines reporting the lies). Why does MSD lie about these matters? So people like you, Brendan, can feel smug when your officials sink their boots into your poorest fellow citizens. Shame on them, shame on you.

Yoza said...

I have no doubt that some of those commenting here would slide easily into a pair of jack-boots.

Perhaps we need some kind of camp where officially designated miscreants can be concentrated - for their own protection and welfare of course.

Scouser said...

Which is as clear a way of delivering the message: “these people are all drug-taking criminals who persistently neglect and abuse their children”;

That's the problem with these overblown, hyberbolic arguments. It's actually a clear way of saying there are SOME who are on drugs or have criminal histories and are dodging the consequences or who struggle in parenting (the hardest job on the planet).

In my experience benificiaries fall in to 3 main camps

1) those who are through personal situation unable to work or find appropriate work on a long term basis- could be illness, could be looking after a loved one, could be lack of capability etc

2) those who require support in between jobs, could during an illness, could be job loss etc but who are short term beneficiaries

3) those who game or defraud the system, could be they don't want to work and ensure they fail interviews, could be they are happy to overclaim, could be they fraudulently claim etc

Unfortunately, the arguments get framed by the ideologists of the left as if every beneficiary falls in to camp one and by the ideologists of the right they fall in to camp three. An obvious nonsense and an obstruction to a reasoned discussion.

This article and Dr Bratt's exaggerated quotes being cases in point of the uselessness of framing arguments in such an extreme fashion. They just don't get listened to other than by fellow evangelists.

Too often, I've seen many in camp one who for precisely the reasons they cannot work don't receive the benefits they are entitled to and correspondingly seen many in camp three who are particularly adroit at milking the maximum out of the taxpayer's dollar.

I don't have a problem with attempting to sort out camp three if it frees up money for camp one.

Whilst I agree that Welfare dependency has become a pejorative term for many I am surprised you have not been called out on the fact that the term relates to reliance on the state for income i.e. the beneficiary is dependent upon the state. The term dependency used in relation to drugs is a euphemism for addiction. Conflating the two is Orwellian in its disingenuousness though I presume this was based upon a strong reaction to the Bratt quote.

Your reference to NAZI Germany is beneath you.

jh said...

well put Scouser. That 1,2,3 rule is used in insurance and I would say reflects human nature whether you are a person in business or beneficiary.

Anonymous said...

@ Brendan above: What a silly comment by you! You have truly fallen for the convenient news release by the Deputy Minister for Social Development, claiming they discovered over 3000 had been "defrauding" the welfare system. He did not want to give any assurances as to how many may be taken to court over this. And guess why? They have had such incident before, where some people, who had changes of circumstances like for instance starting a job, waiting a week or two to report having done so. Who will tell WINZ straight away about having found a job, while still unsure whether it may work out. Usually people want to be sure that the job is one they can handle, and that it will last. Hence at least some of those "over-payments" will be cases like that.

And there have also been reports where WINZ staff did fail to act upon being notified that there were changes some clients actually reported.

So I would wait and insist on the details about this, before I would slag off on beneficiaries who may have received a benefit for longer than entitled.

And there are a fair few businesses that actually defraud the IRD, if you may note. Have you not heard that some shops do not give you receipts and run tills showing 0.00 $ although you bought something and paid for it? It happens all the time, and I know some migrant communities in which it is more widespread. I will not name them, so not to be accused of a bias.

Some beneficiaries may also defraud the system, because they cannot survive on the meagre benefits, and do odd jobs or whatever.

Anonymous said...

Chris - I am glad you have caught onto this. Indeed this fact that Dr David Bratt as Principal Health Advisor for MSD and WINZ is comparing benefit dependence with "drug dependence" has not been new to some. He has been doing this blatantly since at least 2010!

See this presentation he has held at GP and other conferences:

And even the Auckland City Mission and their new Medical Centre have been adopting the "Bratt dogma":

Yes, those that have been reading on The Standard for some time will have read about Bratt and what WINZ have been saying in this regard.

Sadly the wider public do not know this, but some will now hopefully see what is going on. I am furious that the mainstream media do not even bother reporting on this and ask that Dr Bratt some questions.

Here is another "treat" of how bizarre Dr Bratt and his mentor, a Professor M. Aylward from Wales, are:

Compliments of NZ Doctor, who appear to also be little concerned about such extreme "scientific" positions to getting sick and disabled back into work.

Aylward developed the very controversial All Work Test for the Department of Work and Pensions in the UK.

The one now used by ATOS Healthcare (assessors for DWP) is changed a little, but in essence is almost as severe as the one found under the link.

Hence in the UK they have this scenario, soon to be repeated here in NZ:

Sick, disabled and impaired for work and on a benefit in NZ will leave many with a grim future.

Anonymous said...

watch out Bennies, National have a lot more up their sleeves yet. The student loan system will no longer be available to older bennies, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
John Key is a frigging smug, selfish, hard hearted, and greedy to boot why does the media not uncover his devious dealings when he was a shonkey money trader? the worst PM in our history, and the murkiest.

Anonymous said...

I've no doubt that there are a few people gaming the system. There are always a few people gaming any system, but the emphasis is on the word few. This whole furore is similar to the allegations of vote fraud in the U.S. by the right. When asked to provide actual examples, they manage about 3.

Jigsaw said...

Scouser-That's the problem, Labour won't admit that there are any in your(3)category-none, zero, zip -they are all deserving-With a policy like that who can take them seriously-certainly not the voters!
Anonymous at the bottom - You indicate that you have run out of any valid arguments when you resort to personal abuse.

Anonymous said...

My view is that in NZ is seen as a means of social control, a means of collective punishment which is only marginally connected with providing useful services, increasing choices or actual productivity and economic growth.
At the start of mass unemployment in the Anglo english speaking west- NZ, Australia and UK, the unemployment benefit and the whole benefit system in the late 1970s and early 1980s was seen as an alternative to taking unsuitable work or work beneath your class, former job or social status. So in Britain the dole and squats were taken up by out of work actors, aristocrats and diplomats sons. Indeed the whole age and culture of punk rock and second last real generation of rock culture from 1975 to 1983 was financed on the dole in the UK. Indeed British type people moved around the world to take advantage of an easy artistic life on the dole, booze, hard music and sex. The UK and Aus even NZ were seen as attractive destinations for pleasure seekers and the local employment office would offer you attractive high paying six month jobs if you were usefully qualified to fill in for a life of leisure.
Of course the Auckland business culture has triumphed and overemployment and mass inefficieny as the unqualified, hopeless and worn out are forced into unsuitable and pointless occupations .

Robert said...

While the hard line on beneficiaries is general in the west now, in NZ it has a lot to do with Roger Kerr, recently deceased of Roundtable and Coddington Issacs firm. Roger was root in branch fundamentalist of brimstone economic reform or austerity. From a Nelson backcountry farm background a common source of recruitment to Foreign Affairs and later Treasury. The aim of Kerr was to reduce NZ' sophsitication, public service, population and uneconomic transport system in particular rail, to what the country as a farm could support.
So when people like me of the same age as Trotter and Laws arrived at the Trade and Industry or MOT desk for the middle class advisory jobs at the end of 1970s and early 80's they found these were the positions being most savagely afflicted by the Dereck Quigley sinking lid and really you needed Economics 2 to be considered and at least A- generally. Everything had changed.
So the choice really OE or the dole or take a job in the rail traffic branch, a bank ( a hopeless choice if you didn't have strong local contacts and sporting backgrounds and the pay was pocket money for anybody of genuninely middle class background. There was of course the MOD but Muldoon had wrecked defence, no new equipment or updates for a decade. Lange was obviously going to win and to bring into power those with other ideas and little sympathy for US planes or alliances. So that looked likely to be a very ugly resting place.
So some opted out to plot music, change, anarchy,etc.
Kerr and the Roundtable however wanted austerity and their line persuaded Clark and Maharey during the winter of content 2001 that their would be no more benefit rises, and over the following decade and more the buying power and real value of most probably all benefits has been cut by half and long ceased to be a tolerable lurk for middle class wastrels.
Real benefit reform was slow to be implemented because generally Auckland always excepted as always that their was a general collaboration between clients, staff and doctors to sign regardless, give the client an obligatory ten minutes of sharp message to pull up their boots and then sign and suggest a rapid move to a more secure benefit category. Up until the mid 1990s most on the sickness benefit were automatically transfered to the Invalids benefit after a year, unless they objected and never questioned or assessed again. The general environment in Income support to the Ruthanasia policies than anybody with a positive attitude who actually believed beneficiaries wanted to work rather than to blow every interview, slack off after a couple of days or accept only high paying work or sinecures- rapidly resigned or cracked.
In Auckland a place of hard low paid intergenerational working class - the attitudes of Brash, Collins and Banks have long prevailed. Work, business culture as a religion. Anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
Vicious downward mobility to be enforced on any stirrer,slacker or dissident. The Brash campaign of 2005 was a vicious campaign of hate towards ordinary maoris, mental patients, benficiaries, solo mums. The rabid values of provincial Taranaki come to Auckland. All of which ignored the fact that most Brash supporters were the failed white middle lower middle class and shopkeepers and peasant farmers with no productive value in the work of Hayek, Freidman and Margaret Thatcher. The slick yuppie, liberated, me generation world of total empowerment for the individuals teenagers, young women, the beautiful and the different was exactly what Brash supporters wanted to send to the workhouse.
The Act supporters in Auckland acutally belive the opposite of Reagan, Thatcher and the Bushes.

Jigsaw said...

Robert says "Brash's campaign in 2005 was a vicous campaign of hate against ordinary Maori(s)....." - please explain how a call for equality for all before the law is an attack as you describe. That's exactly what we want right now which is no different than the same sentiment that is included in the great constitutions of the world. You obviously fancy yourself as a Trotter or a Laws.......please explain how you consider equality to be such an evil thing and please in your tirade try avoid the phrase 'hidden agenda'.

Anonymous said...

Jigsaw -Funny how pakeha are so keen to get rid if perceived Maori advantages, but never seemed to notice laws that discriminated against Maori well into the '80s

Chris Trotter said...

To: Anonymous@8:12AM

This allegation about discriminatory laws comes up again and again.

It was certainly true up until the 1930s and 40s - but the 1980s?

Perhaps you could cite some examples.

Robert said...

Jigsaw. I view one law for all as a wrong and unfair policy. People are not equal and they are not created equal. Jefferson's famous declaration is a calculated political statement. Jefferson didn't believe in a vote for every man and his constitutional ideas were really a modification of the French balance of powers with a government system built up to check and filter democracy.
At least in the broad banded sense there are real difference in IQ. The basic 25/25/50 division intended by the British 1944 Butler system of over 111 into grammar schools, 105-110 in Tech schools and the rest in Sec Mod does reflect a certain reality of different kind on minds, unfortunately the available schools couldn't be modified to fit the available distribution and in London and with girls a lot of the high talent ended up in Sec Modern schools. In terms of race, people take a while to socialise to a urban NZ environment and biochemical and size difference's result in different temper and damage levels but I don't believe there's any difference between IQ distribution of races.
In reality the dumber half of kiwi white males are just as much a difficult to employ productively as their black brothers and sisters who tend to be more useful for sex and military.
My own view is their should be a minimum IQ level of 107 on a credible one shot test for entry to the military, police and nursing or proof that one was of that standard, ie a pass in School Cert English or Maths.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps they meant 1970's. I can find stuff going back that far without too much trouble. There was land stuff until 1975 and adoption stuff until 1969.The Town and country planning act was discriminatory until 1977 apparently. I guess you could argue that capping the Maori seats at 4 discriminated into the 1990s. I did hear somewhere that the last discriminatory laws against Maori disappeared in 1987, but that might have been anonymous 8.12 :-). And of course there's the foreshore and seabed act which took away their right to go to court over ownership of land. About the only people who stood up against that were ACT. In keeping with their principles I guess but fairly safe, as they were never going to have to live up to it. And if I remember rightly Muldoon refused permits for Maori to develop Bastion Point. Even so, judging by some of the pictures, some people are old enough to remember these.

Anonymous said...

Oops just found stuff on perpetual leases and less than market rents. Leases still going but now paying closer to market rents.

Jigsaw said...

Robert-You are mixing up equality of opportunity with equality of outcome-they are not the same. The first you can do something about-the latter is something within each individual. The idea of using some IQ in the way you talk about means, if you don't mind me saying so, that you have little or no idea of how IQ is measured and just how inaccurate it can be. It should be avoided if at all possible. I am talking about equality as an ideal-the thing we should aiim for. The mention of Thomas Jefferson is exactly the point-the constitution they framed could and was used against slave owners-not what was intended but it was the ideal from which they could not escape.

jh said...

Anonymous said...
I've no doubt that there are a few people gaming the system. There are always a few people gaming any system, but the emphasis is on the word few.
and yet these are of the same group that feature so often in the court news; the ones called (in urban lore) ferals.

this discussion is about paradigms.

jh said...

anonymous is scratching (thank goodness) for discrimination: no lynchings; no Jim Crowe laws.

better to leave stuff like that to Witi Imimaera who watched the red headed man rub his crotch and smile after he raped his mother.. and any and every trick he can think of.

Chris Trotter said...

To: Anonymous@2:58AM and 3:20AM

Thanks for the links - unfortunately they are infected with some sort of virus - so I had to delete your comments.

If you can find an uninfected link/s - please try again.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Hi Chris -

"MEDICAL AND WORK CAPABILITY ASSESSMENTS - BASED ON THE BPS MODEL, AIMED AT DISENTITELING AFFECTED FROM WELFARE BENEFITS AND ACC COMPO THE AYLWARD - UNUM LINK: An article summarising comprehensive, revealing research results" the title of a recent post on ACC Forum blog, and it can be searched easily on their website. That is in addition to what I just communicated by a message a couple of minutes ago. It exposes the agenda WINZ are now applying and following to off-load sick and disabled off benefits, same as is being done in the UK.

It questions the supposed "evidence" they rely on, and gives evidence of the opposite being true.



Mo Stewart said...

I see these comments are in keeping with the UK, who now use a totally bogus 'assessment' for chronically sick & disabled people to justify state benefits.

People are dying in their thousands but the UK Government will not publish updated figures.

If you want to know what's happening, following a visit by Prof Sir Mansel Aylward to your country, then perhaps you need to see a report published by the Centre for Disability Studies that should tell you all you need to know: FROM BRITISH WELFARE STATE TO ANOTHER AMERICAN STATE: