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Alternative Welfare Working Group Report Welcomed

Alternative Welfare Working Group Report Welcomed

“The strong research base and well-reasoned analysis of the issues presented in the ‘Welfare Justice for All’ report must give pause to those responsible for the work of the government sponsored Welfare Working Group”, said Ruby Duncan, President of the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS). “Rather than taking a closely controlled look at the benefit system, seeking only to drive down the obvious costs through a single focus on work, this report provides an evidence-based rational for decreasing welfare costs by increasing the well-being of the most vulnerable New Zealanders – people who live in benefit dependent homes”.

“By taking a 21st century approach to social security, one that incorporates a broad approach and recognises the links between employment, education, health, housing and social policies based on enhancing inclusion and reducing inequalities, the Welfare Justice group has created a vision for a successful New Zealand”, said Mrs Duncan. “In the long run punishing welfare recipients for not working, especially when there are few jobs available, will not result in a New Zealand society we can be proud of. We need well educated and healthy families capable of engaging in a modern society. This is not achieved by a social security system that does not value the work of parents, that decreases access to education and training and that forces people into accepting any work, whether suitable for their situation or not”.

“The Alternative Welfare Working Group has identified that the so called beneficiary crisis has been hyped up to be more immediate than it really is. There is no need to rush through a narrowly defined review. We do have time for a constructive debate”, said Mrs Duncan. “How we properly support those of our fellow New Zealanders who need to access social security now and in the future is worthy of deep thought and an inclusive discussion. The Council is concerned that with the Welfare Working Group releasing its recommendations in an Election Year the type of discussion that will emerge will be politically motivated and will demonise social security recipients. The Government should pull back from its singular focus on ‘a job - any job’ as the answer to supporting vulnerable New Zealanders and look instead to a wider range of solutions”.

“Our members tell us that they have many clients who are under incredible stress as their income does not support their basic needs. Even after working to the most careful of budgets and receiving all the social security support they are permitted there simply is not enough income to cover the most simple lifestyle”, said Trevor McGlinchey, NZCCSS Executive Officer. “The latest NZCCSS Vulnerability Report shows that demand is incredibly high on all support services, especially budget advice and food banks. The reality is that present benefit and minimum wage levels are insufficient for the high cost of basic living. We need to act now to increase vulnerable families’ incomes so that poverty does not create greater costs in health and in lost opportunity for our children.”

“There is a need to have a more flexible benefit system that recognises the costs imposed by each families’ individual circumstances so that they can maintain a basic, healthy lifestyle as suggested by the Welfare Justice Group”, said McGlinchey. “By branding people who receive benefits as being of less value than those who work and punishing them by the payment of poverty level benefits we are not creating the environment for a socially just and inclusive society. It is this kind of society that will future proof New Zealand, not the unequal society of the “haves and the have nots” that the government sponsored Welfare Working Group options paper seems to be promoting.

ENDS

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