Thursday, February 13, 2020

Labour's festering Neoliberalism

The government today announced a major support package aimed at reducing homelessness. A thousand new transitional housing places, more support for people to find homes (or not lose them in the first place), all good stuff. The one problem with it is that they're going to start charging people in emergency accommodation in motels. This is not a return to National's odious system of saddling people with odious debt for their failure to provide proper support in the first place - the "contribution" will be 25% of a "client's" income, exactly what they'd be paying if they were in a state house with individual bedrooms and a proper kitchen and a backyard rather than a shitty motel. What stinks is the reason for it: if you read the Cabinet Paper (paragraphs 63-68), its intended to "support a reduction in the reliance on motels" and produce "behavioural changes" which will supposedly reduce the cost of the programme. In other words, it will cause people to either leave those shitty motels earlier than they otherwise would have, or not ask for assistance in the first place.

WINZ obviously sees this as a Good Thing - after all, renting all those motel rooms for the homeless costs money, and they pay a premium to motel owners for it. To a government, savings are good. But what it actually means is people staying homeless, which undermines the purpose of the policy. And it suggests that Labour's hallmark "kindness", supposed to be at the core of everything they do, is turning back into the usual Neoliberal bullshit policy elites have been infected with since the 80's - bullshit which imposes deliberate hardship on the poor and vulnerable to "incentivise" them not to use government services which could help, all in the name of keeping costs - and taxes on the rich - down. And I don't think that's what people voted for in 2017.