Academic journal article Social Policy Journal of New Zealand

Sickness and Invalid's Benefits: New Developments and Continuing Challenges

Academic journal article Social Policy Journal of New Zealand

Sickness and Invalid's Benefits: New Developments and Continuing Challenges

Article excerpt

Abstract

The proportion of the working-aged population receiving an Invalid's Benefit (IB) has increased steadily between 1994 and 2004, and numbers on a Sickness Benefit (SB) rose sharply in the early 1990s and have continued to increase between 2000 and 2005. New Zealand has witnessed considerable policy activity in the field of SB and IB, as well as disability policy more broadly. To date, there has been relatively little attention paid by academic commentators to the increased emphasis on working actively with SB and IB clients. This is despite the fact that the new directions signalled for SB and IB constitute nothing less than a paradigm shift. At the heart of change is the move beyond individuals--beyond focusing on either their disability or their lack of motivation.

This paper outlines the package of measures aimed at reforming Sickness and Invalid's Benefits, including the underpinning rationales. It situates these changes within the broader context of both active labour market policy and disability initiatives. SB and IB reform is a wide and challenging agenda, but one with the potential to deliver important economic and social outcomes. The paper reflects on five fundamental issues that will influence the longer-term success of SB and IB interventions: the social model, issues of partnership, "healthy welfare", mutual obligation, and investment social policy.

INTRODUCTION

From the 1990s, a dominant theme of welfare reform focused on shifting from passive welfare delivery to "active labour market policy". The "active social policy agenda" challenges many of the traditional ideas held by social policy, such as the clear demarcation of life stages (i.e. study, work and retirement), or that policy could be built on traditional gender roles and family forms. Instead, there is recognition of the increasingly multiple and "hyphenated" nature of social and economic life:

   Social policies that work need to fit these new realities. They need
   to place greater emphasis on investment in people in order to help
   them change their lives for the better, better nurture children,
   reduce benefits payments, social exclusion and poverty and create
   a more cohesive society. (OECD 2005)

Welfare policy is seen to require a better linkage with economic policy, as well as being in need of some "modernisation" to bring it in line with changed social, economic, demographic and attitudinal realities of the 21st century. A constituent of the realignment between economic and social policy has been the "work-first" approach to reducing poverty, and attempts to widen labour market opportunities as a route to fostering social inclusion.

The rise in numbers in receipt of disability benefits has been of shared concern for many Western governments, and has prompted greater policy attention being paid to those in long-term receipt of such benefits. (2) Measures have included reforming the benefit system and attempts to stimulate innovative service responses. Despite these aspirations, across the OECD, countries spend twice as much on disability related benefit programmes as they spend on unemployment (OECD 2003). (3) More recently, an emphasis on reducing the numbers on disability rolls has been complemented by the growing awareness of the important influence of work on overall wellbeing (for example, the UK White Paper, Department of Health 2005).

New Zealand has witnessed considerable policy activity in the field of Sickness Benefit (SB) and Invalid's Benefit (IB), as well as disability policy more broadly. The (velvet) revolution that has taken place around SB and IB must also be placed in the broader context of changes that have occurred in how "disability", "disabled people", "ability" and "capacity" are conceptualised. Under recent Labour-led governments, there have been significant developments across the field of disability policy and strategy. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.