Beneficiaries fight welfare change

By Cherie Taylor

A handful of beneficiaries who are against the Government's social welfare reforms which they call "draconian" and which they say will see families living in poverty have taken their protest to the street outside the office of Rotorua MP Todd McClay.

Armed with a megaphone and two large placards - one stating "your ideology is a crime" the other a barometer measuring the riot danger levels of those affected by the new policies - they stood on the grass opposite the Mr McClay's office yesterday afternoon.

They were opposing the new reforms which included cutting the benefits of those who didn't put their children into early childhood education or actively looked for work or training options. The policies also require people to respond to interviews and pass drug tests for jobs or have their benefits halved.

Chanze Mikaere, mother of 2-year-old Pia,, was taking part in the protest with about seven others.

She said people were angry about the new benefit reforms which would see them living well below the breadline, so were coming out in force right across the country to protest.

"People are just not going to be able to cope. They have got so many hoops to jump through just to get what they are entitled to."

Bernie Hornfeck said many beneficiaries with children already weren't coping financially, with school fees not being paid and those children excluded from school trips. "People just aren't coping now. All this is doing is punishing the kids," he said.

Kathy Hillman-Te Rupe, who doesn't receive any form of income because her husband's benefit has been declined, said the policies would place more Kiwi children into poverty if their parents' payments were cut because they couldn't or wouldn't comply with them.

"What good will it do cutting their benefit in half? You are cutting off what they need to put kai [food] on the table or pay bills with. It's so wrong."

Rotorua beneficiaries' advocate Paul Blair said the new policies would result in more people turning to crime to survive. He is calling for the Government to be ousted.

"We want to protest the draconian measures being legislated. [This Government] is legally turning the Social Security Act into something like the Crimes Act ... It's demoralising and degrading for people. It's not okay ... it's Paula Bennett's benefit bashing bill." He predicts there could be riots in the future if things don't change.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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