Ministry of Social Development

The High Court recently decided that when the Ministry of Social Development calculates a social security beneficiary’s income any mortgage and credit cards loans she received were not income. Quite right, but it took a tortuous path to come to the right conclusion.

Had the Court come to any other conclusion, those businessmen jailed for fraudulently booking their business loan receipts as income (to hide a deficit in their flow of current receipts) would have asked for their sentences to be quashed and for compensation for wrongful imprisonment. What it would have meant for the private and public accounts of the nation boggles the mind.

Social development minister Paula Bennett promises a benefit reform that brings “an unrelenting focus on work”. But just how sharp is that focus going to be?

Promising to tighten the screws on welfare bludgers is the stuff that gets chat radio humming, but actually doing it is much more difficult, particularly when unemployment is still on the rise in an economy that is tottering out of a recession.