Editorial: Welfare reform a positive decision

By Scott Inglis


I have always been a believer in state welfare.

It is important there is a safety net for people unable to support themselves, either because they genuinely can't find a job or because they are too sick to work.

It would be a sad day indeed when the state just left all these people to fend for themselves.

But that doesn't mean our welfare system should be a free ride. Unemployed people must make every effort to find a job rather than just expect a handout.

The government's latest planned welfare reforms are a good example at ensuring beneficiaries fulfil their end of the bargain and that our taxes are put to best use.

Beneficiaries who refuse, or fail drug tests while applying for jobs will have their welfare cut from mid-2013. At the moment, there are no consequences for drug-takers who pull out of job applications when faced with a drug test.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett expects the new rules to apply to anyone on the new Job Seekers benefit, which will cover about 135,000 beneficiaries who are expected to be able to work.

Labour, as you'd expect, opposes the move.

Its social development spokeswoman, Jacinda Ardern, says the move goes against New Zealand Drug Foundation advice, which says cutting state support for drug users reduces their chances of rehabilitation.

I see things differently.

Whether someone is a recreational user or an addict, my view is they should have to help themselves if they want state help.

There needs to be an emphasis on personal responsibility.

Employers have a right to expect applicants to be drug free and it is wrong for people to expect taxpayers to give them money to buy drugs and then be unable to hold down a job because of that drug use.

If people are addicted, then they need to get help and get clean. There are a number of organisations that can help them achieve this.

Another loophole in the benefit system that is long overdue for closing, is cutting off benefits to criminals on the run.

Under the welfare reforms, beneficiaries wanted by police will have seven days to turn themselves in and prove to Work and Income they have done so, or they lose their benefit.

Fair enough. It's time to tighten the rules.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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