Children’s wellbeing is more important than money

Not that our Prime Minister thinks so:

John Key told Morning Report today [Child, Youth and Family] would undergo a structural overhaul following a review by the senior public servant Paula Rebstock.

He did not rule out a future role for the private sector.

“I don’t think we’re seriously talking about the private sector taking control of all the children, but if there is some small function they could do, maybe, I’d have to see what that is.”

Come on, people. We can all read between the lines on that one, can’t we?

This is par for the course for this government. Paula Rebstock’s background includes the Welfare Working Group report which suggested forcing people who have a child while on a benefit to look for work when the baby is 13 weeks old. She led a half-million dollar “witch-hunt” into the leaking of documents detailing what an utter botch Murray McCully made of restructuring MFAT.

They’ve already discussed social impact bonds, i.e. “how to let private companies make money off bullying sick people”. They’ve already driven Relationships Aotearoa into the ground. They’ve tried and failed to make ACC look weak and in need of private sector expertise. It’s the same tune every time.

Another spotlight on National’s gross mistreatment of beneficiaries

It’s the old National Party lie, isn’t it? As reported in The Press:

New Zealand’s social welfare system “dehumanises” people in need, with beneficiaries described as “scared stiff” of Work and Income case managers, new research says.

The report said case managers were “overstretched”.

Tolley said there was “no evidence” of this and in 2014 the Auditor-General reviewed welfare services and found most people found their claims were “resolved fairly”.

She said the Government had reduced the amount of people on benefits, with an 8.6 per cent decline in Canterbury of solo parent benefits.

We’ve reduced the numbers! That’s what’s important! We must be successful economic managers because there are fewer people claiming solo parent benefits and this obviously means people are bootstrapping their way into work!

Except that at this point, if you’re at all interested in NZ politics, you know full well that National has spent the past six years achieving benefit number reductions in one way: making life so hellish for the people who depend on them that they will do absolutely anything to avoid dealing with Work and Income.

We’re talking about people who by very definition are in a vulnerable position. They can’t find work. The jobs aren’t there, or they’re sick, or they have dependent children. They don’t have enough to pay the bills. They’re trying to feed their kids, and they’re coming up time and again against a remorseless, heartless machine which treats them like villains.

I know there are many lovely, generous, well-intentioned people working in our social welfare system. But right at the top you’ve got a government which thinks anyone who isn’t in paid work is inherently a moocher, a parasite, a waste of space. That will always filter down to the front lines, and that’s why you get a situation where people who have to queue for hours just to have the chance to argue for a little bit of help to pay the rent aren’t even allowed to use the goddamned toilet.

Free GP visits for under 13s – an unequivocally broken election promise

National could not have been clearer in their wording during the election campaign:

national free gp visits

Their own website still says:

More than 400,000 primary school-aged children will be able to go to a doctor for free, any time of the day or night, and get their prescriptions free as well.

Part of our $500 million Budget 2014 package helping families.

National brought in free GP visits and prescriptions for children under six, including free after-hours visits. Thanks to our prudent management of the health budget, we are extending this policy to children under 13.

But when the Green Party received documents through the OIA process showing that the government is funding only 90% of accident-related GP visits for under-13s, suddenly the story changed: it’s not about providing “free GP visits and prescriptions” to under-13s, it’s about encouraging GPs to offer free visits to under-13s.

And today, the really telling bit: Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman, defending the fact that his party promised free GP visits for all and is delivering free GP visits for not-actually all, suggested that parents “shop around” for GPs who do offer free visits.

“If your GP won’t give you your free under 6 consultation then you go a couple of hundred yards down the road,” he said.

The same approach would need to be taken by parents for the under 13 scheme and Coleman advised parents to contact their local District Health Board to find a doctor signed up to the scheme if their own one isn’t.

Because everyone, of course, lives in an area where there’s another GP just “a couple of hundred yards down the road”. And all GPs are accepting new patients. And when your child is sick or injured and needs medical treatment you’re definitely going to ring around and circle the block a few times to get the best deal – healthcare is basically like buying a fridge, right?

And of course, DHBs are so flush with cash and back office staff that they can easily answer calls from every family in their district wanting to know which GPs offer free visits.

It’s the core of National Party ideology laid bare: the market is the Messiah. The customer will decide what they want and the market will adjust accordingly.

They ignore the chronic underfunding of our health system. They ignore the realities of everyday life for people who aren’t on ministerial salaries and don’t live in big cities. They think of sick and injured children as consumers and family doctors as businesses and don’t understand why that’s grotesque.

They don’t seem to understand why we have a public health care system in the first place, or that healthcare is a need, not a nice to have.

But they made a promise, and their own words condemn them. Free GP visits and prescriptions for children under 13. Not “some” GPs. Not “some” visits. Not “some” under-13s.

No matter how they try to spin this, no one can see this as anything other than another broken promise.