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Ed Sheeran

The legacy of punitive policies is homelessness.

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The legacy of punitive policies is homelessness.

Minister Bennett wouldn’t have visited with Te Puea kainga-kore whanau themselves, the media mob hovering around her meant privacy issues would’ve kicked in. But if she had, Minister Bennett would’ve come face to face with her punitive reforms. The 15 school aged tamariki currently at Te Puea born between 2006 and 2010 is just the tip of the iceberg of her penal policies. Penal policies they are because what’s more punishing than being without access to warm shelter, food and security. It’s time Minister Bennett put people before policies.

The Marae visit, might also be construed as an admission of policy failure in a most spectacular fashion. Clearly the Minister and her Government’s, ‘Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill’ back in 2010 introduced Jobseeker Support, Sole Parent Support and the Supported Living Payment is a flop. Typical of a centre right Government supportive of fiscal ROI on policies these reforms were an investment approach and based on an insurance model. The expected savings somewhere between $900 million and $1.6 billion by June next year. These policies aimed squarely at rangatahi and single parent beneficiaries. Making a profit of the most vulnerable of whanau is repugnant. At the time of the policy announcement Minister Bennett was unapologetic, confidently claiming the focus on sole mothers and young people was deliberate.

The mounting pressure on the Minister to front face the homelessness issue at community street level rather than the lofty heights of the beehive is a ‘later-than-never, without the better’ move. Don’t be surprised if the Minister took advice from National Party pollsters as to whether or not to visit Te Puea. If that’s the case what a travesty. Why let a focus group quickly pulled together determine the visit? It probably had more to do with control-damage to brand John-Key, Prime Minister’s rankings and that of the Government. Because they’re like that the Government, they’re trend followers they move according to the mood of their core voters. It’s not just National, Labour under Helen Clark were ‘focus-groupies’ gauging the mood of voting constituents and if it was to their advantage then called the findings ‘mood of the nation’.

But 40,000 homeless tamariki and their whanau should never be about ratings rankings and rantings of a minority number of focus-groupies. Homelessness is about humanity, everyday New Zealanders in desperate need of shelter food and security.

Why else would the Minister wait until now to visit Te Puea? Could it be to do with the media? Having John Campbell grill you over practical quicktime but longterm solutions to resolving homelessness? Without answers fronting a media scrum is akin to walking a tight rope without a safety net. But so what, that’s far warmer a place to be, than living homeless in a van, car or tent. So really there’s absolutely no good, rational or decent reason for a no-show or slow-show.

The Minister needs to find shelter for homeless whanau and all New Zealanders looking for a house of their own to own. She can only do that if she pays more attention to people than punitive policies.







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