Solving the Whale Oil problem

Cameron Slater is certainly on fire today, releasing a load of posts on his blog.

His blog, while not to me required reading, is certainly on the radar of most politicians, and he has pulled off several scoops in his time online.

However at the same time he has had “the black dog that is severe depression“, making him unfit for many years for normal work and surviving on the benefit or insurance payments. I’m very pleased to have found out now that he is better, to the point where he wrote in August that he is now back at work.

That’s great to hear, as it solves the Whale Oil problem for one person. However the problem remains for many – how do we as a society help people get off the benefit and on to paying work. It was doubly hard in Slater’s case, as he is clearly very capable, and commands a significant audience, and the optics of a ful time political blogger on a benefit were disturbing for all observers.

Reforms to welfare benefits announced today seem to signal a smart change in approach.

The new policy, which is admittedly light on details, aims to flip the approach to benefits from “entitlement to service if you fit a category” to  “helping people deliver on their capacity to work”.

The emphasis of resources (training courses, 1-1 assistance, child care and the like) will be to support those people most at risk of being long term off-work, rather than those who just happen to be between jobs. Time will tell, but I hope that this means folks that are in the position Slater was will be given the nuanced and targetted support they need to get back to work.

It’s been released as a National Party policy, but reads as a government policy, and contains some simplification of the complex benefit nomenclature as well. I hope the other partie get behind it (or similar) as well.

Published by Lance Wiggs


2 replies on “Solving the Whale Oil problem”

  1. How many times have you heard this sort of spiel? When they actually come to spend the money it turns out “nuanced and targetted support ” is too expensive and they revert to the old model – pay them just enough to survive and hassle / demean them as much as possible.


  2. Refreshing to see you taking such a sympathetic view of someone’s struggle with a disability that precluded them from contributing full time. Society has a tendency to look down on such people, but Cameron’s success as a blogger raised his profile and credibility. Recent reports on National’s welfare reform have brought some of the less aware/sensitive commenters out of the woodwork, and many (Check out Key’s page on Facebook) are saying cruel things to real people who are in positions that are not of their making and where they do not desire to be.

    Having been knocked out of the workforce by the onset of epilepsy from an up-til-then-unknown brain tumour when I was 35, with two small kids and a mortgage to service, I found myself relying at first on a sickness benefit, and then, realising that that implied “invalid” in a most literal meaning of the term, I was instead supported by an unemployment benefit as I suffered through a lack of confidence, seizures and depression.

    I turned my concentration to education and secured a Master’s degree over just 16 months of sheer hard work, and have been the recipient of very complicated brain surgery from the Health Department, both of which involved very generous support from the Sate in the form of student loans and access to our first-class health service. It is a point of honour that I can make a contribution to the state to repay these.

    Many times I was exposed to comments about my “willingness to work” – I have struggled to turn my life around and work hard to pay my own way, but now I am very much more sympathetic to those in a similar situation. I hope your projections about the new policy turn out to be correct and that the policies themselves are effective when National are re-elected.


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