Taxpayers will be tempted to celebrate on learning they no longer have to fill the trough from which a former gang leader and his family have been slurping for 26 years.
But don’t pop the champagne tops just yet. Darryl Harris – the bloke in question – has three months to appeal against the decision.
Harris, who lives in Christchurch, apparently has been told his benefit will stop from January 10 because “he no longer meets standard eligibility requirements”.
The information comes from Social Development Ministry chief executive Peter Hughes and is published at Stuff today.
The decision comes at a time when – nudged along by the likes of Alf behind the scenes – the Government is taking a harder line on benefit claims, including work-testing for sickness benefits from this May.
Stuff reminds us that this Harris feller and his wife, Marcia Robins, made headlines a year ago when it was revealed they had been claiming unemployment and sickness benefits continually since 1984.
They had received $30,000 in special-needs grants since 2000, including payments for new tyres for their 2007 Chrysler saloon and to fence a swimming pool at one of their Christchurch properties.
Many of Alf’s mates can’t afford a 2007 Chrysler or properties with swimming pools.
They work hard and pay their taxes, and they are throughly pissed off that some of those taxes have been used to give some beneficiaries a much better quality of life than they enjoy.
They also have cause to question the judgement of a doctor hired by Work and Income who (Alf presumes) was also paid with taxpayers’ money.
Efforts to cancel Mr Harris’s sickness benefit failed when he obtained a medical opinion from one of Work and Income’s designated doctors that he was addicted to cannabis.
The agency had appealed against a medical opinion that Mr Harris was suffering “stress and anxiety” at being work-tested.
So what has happened that the plug is being pulled now?
Alas, Hughes did not elaborate on why Harris’s sickness benefit was stopped
Alf’s a tad disappointed with Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, however. She should have thundered against bludging, but sounded almost namby-pamby. Must have a word with her, when we get together for our next caucus meeting.
The Government believed those who could work should, “and if that is considered hardline, so be it”, she said.
“If someone is receiving the benefit because they are unwell, it is reasonable to expect them to be making every effort to get well so they can return to work.
“That is their responsibility to the taxpayer,” she said.
“It is unreasonable to expect the New Zealand taxpayer to support someone for extended periods on welfare because of a drug habit, unless every effort is being made to kick that habit and get back to work.”
Bennett said at least 9000 sickness beneficiaries have been medically assessed as fit and able to work part-time, “so rather than write them off as completely unable to work, let’s help every one of those individuals get a job.”
This could be easier said than done in Harris’s case.
He could not be contacted yesterday, Stuff says, but it recalls a family member previously saying it was difficult for him to find work because “he is an ex-gang member”.
Oh dear, what a shame, never mind.