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Welfare Reform; is it social justice in action?

Posted July 16, 2015

Social Policy Unit's Major Campbell Roberts' keynote address to the SWIS conference in Auckland 16 July 2015.

One of the notable aspects of the contemporary political environment in New Zealand, and in other western democracies is welfare reform. Welfare reform it seems is the thing to do. The reasons often given for reform are the need for an improved system which better delivers to individuals and families. That this needs to happen cannot be denied. It only stands to reason that the needs of our modern contexts are dynamic and rapidly changing.

A response to these changes requires a welfare system to alter and adjust. However, this need to improve the system, is also mixed with a desire by government to examine the cost of the system and reform it in a cost effective way. Again a reasonable thing to review, but one is often left wondering which reform objective wins the day effectiveness or cost.

A far more important question in my view is that the welfare reforms envisaged and implemented are fair and equitable. In other words do they pass the test of being socially just? And it is this test of the social justice of the present welfare reform programme that I would like to explore with you this morning.

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