Well, this ( http://www.stuff.co.nz/4562327a10.html ) can hardly be a shock. It appears that possibly ‘Work & Income’ (who ever thought that name up has a strange sense of humour) have been advising terminally unemployed people to get themselves on the sickness benefit.
Surely everyone realises that there is a direct correlation between the fall in long term unemployed and the rise in people permanently on the sickness benefit? To hear some of the comments on the radio it does appear some people are surprised and it’s almost like suddenly the magic spell cast by the government has finally lifted.
In the ideological debate over private vs public (taxpayer) delivery of services those opposed to private delivery always point to the distortions of the free market, and while they are there, the same rules apply to the public service.
If the goal is ‘to get the number of people of long term unemployed people on benefits down’ then you can see why some people might see that putting them on another statistically unrelated list might achieve that goal. I am always reminded of a incident during the cultural revolution where comrades keen to impress upon Mao their dedication to the goal of increasing agricultural production were uprooting the same field of corn and moving it ahead of a tour and replanting it… Mao was impressed.
It is all rather neat, the minister can quite innocently claim to not have directed this, because obviously they wouldn’t (one would hope) actually direct public servants to move people onto the sickness benefit, but if the goal was to reduce the statistic (a laudable goal) then that would certainly be one way of reaching it.
The reduction in unemployed has given the government a useful statistic to show how fiscally responsible they are. It requires a lot more effort from journalists and reporters to go out and dig into the statistics and reveal in 10 second news bites how the sickness beneficiaries have gone through the roof, and conveniently for the government, it isn’t nice to pick on ‘sick’ people.