Buried among the long weekend non-news the item on mental health bonds made me choke on my dinner. This government, which fancies itself compassionate conservative after throwing a 25 dollar bone to the poorest of the poor is showing its true colours. This latest move is straight out of the most cynical chapter of the neoliberal textbook.
Finance minister Bill English
released a statement as quoted in the Herald saying :
“The Government is focused on achieving better results for individuals and families in highest need.
Where we succeed, there are opportunities to help people fulfil their potential, a chance to break inter-generational cycles of dependency and, in the long term, potential savings for taxpayers.
So social bonds are a consistent fit with our wider social investment approach which aims to better understand both the drivers and risks of social dysfunction and where we can have the greatest impact in improving people’s lives.”
Sweet as, like motherhood and apple pie. This Crosby Textor Australian dirty tricks spin doctor language is designed to inoculate the policy from any criticism. Who could possibly be against ‘better results for people in highest need’ ? Who could possibly be against ‘people fulfil their potential’ ? Who can be against ‘savings for taxpayers, social investment improving people’s lives’ ? However, most of us are not buying it.
This neoliberal spin speak has to be translated from Bill’s English into the Queen’s English to really make you puke.
‘Individuals and families in highest need’ means ‘the most vulnerable in society who cannot fight back and/or don’t even realise what is happening to them’.
‘Social bonds are a consistent fit with our wider social investment approach’ has to be translated into ‘the government is washing it’s hands off it’s responsibility to the ones who need their support most.
‘The greatest impact in improving people’s lives’ has to be read as ‘forcing mentally ill people into some kind of phoney work – ready or not – as the only way to make money for the investors’.
‘The National-led Government gave the green light to a pilot scheme in September 2013, and has now confirmed the first four social bond contracts’ must be interpreted as this “compassionate” government has decided on a social experiment, but kept it secret for almost two years as it would not have looked good at election time. And predictably they are picking the most vulnerable. They wouldn’t dare to take on as their first target ACC clients trying to get back into work or mothers or the elderly who all have a voice and would fight back. The mentally ill don’t vote.
Of course the criticism was immediate. But the minister of health ‘Dr Coleman defended the scheme against claims that it was gambling with New Zealand’s most vulnerable people.
Until now there had been no sanctions or incentives in the mental health sector, he said. Because individuals, private companies or charities would be paid a return only if targets were met, there would be an incentive to provide high-quality services. “This will sharpen everyone’s minds,” Dr Coleman said’.
Of the three who need to be profit driven ‘individuals, private companies or charities‘ realistically only companies would be even remotely interested to have a look. Individuals would not have the capacity and charities by definition would not be allowed to be profit driven. It will be interesting to see who the private investors in mental health bonds will be. One thing however is certain it will be the scum of the earth who would want to profit from the misfortune of the most feeble and vulnerable of their fellow men.
It seems that the social experiment also has some research purpose as the government’s ‘wider social investment approach aims to better understand both the drivers and risks of social dysfunction and where we can have the greatest impact’.
One would expect experiments on mental patients without their consent for research purposes to require some sort of ethics committee approval.
Thinking of forced experiments on mental health patients for research purposes I am of course reminded of the infamous Nazi Concentration camp doctor Joseph Mengele and his experiments on Jews and the mentally ill.
One cannot in any way diminish the uniqueness of the Nazi crimes.
However, our government’s experiment with mental health patients and Dr. Mengele’s experiments on mental health patients have one thing in common.
They both don’t/didn’t have ethics committee approval.
Makes you think.