Tuesday, May 17, 2016

An illusory "solution"

Yesterday, John Key waved away Auckland's homelessness problem by saying that people should "talk to Work and Income". But does it actually do any good? This morning on Morning Report, Guyon Espiner quizzed a spokesperson from WINZ about what they could actually do. And after much poking, what he got was "We will find them a place if one is available".

Note the "if" there. Further questioning made it clear that there were not places available, and that the best WINZ could do in cases of extreme need was pay for a motel, for a week. After which, they throw you back on the street again. That's what the Prime Minister calls a "solution" to homelessness. In the real world, its no solution at all - just a hugely expensive way to shuffle people around.

(Up until recently, WINZ would also charge you for that motel stay. So, it wasn't really "help", just a way of lumping people with further debt. You can understand why people would reject that "solution". This morning they suggested they weren't charging anymore. It will be interesting to see how long that policy lasts in practice...)

Espiner also linked homelessness explicitly to National's benefit cuts and the practice of forcing people to reapply for benefits frequently. This policy is explicitly predicated on a hope that beneficiaries won't, or will fail to meet some petty bureaucratic deadline, allowing them to be cut off and money saved. But you can easily see how the homeless are exceptionally vulnerable to this and driven further into poverty. Clearly, the government feels that the further impoverishment of those on the absolute bottom of the heap is an acceptable price to pay for cost savings. I don't think the rest of New Zealand is quite so comfortable with it however.

The full audio of the interview is here.