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Ongoing Benefit Disparities A Disgrace - Bradford

3 September 2002

Ongoing Benefit Disparities A Disgrace - Bradford

Green Social Services Spokesperson Sue Bradford today said it was totally unacceptable that after nearly three years of Labour Government there are still huge disparities in how special benefits are delivered.

A recent report titled 'Widening the Gaps' by the Wellington Downtown Ministry has found that Pakeha households are, on average, 60 per cent more likely to receive a special benefit than Maori households and 83 per cent more likely to receive a special benefit than Pacific Island households.

"I will be asking the Social Services Minister Steve Maharey in parliament today why, in towns like Waitara, Pakeha are nine times more likely than Maori to receive a special benefit," said Ms Bradford.

"The regional and ethnic disparities in which people are given special benefits is inexcusable. It's hard for anyone to get a special benefit and the last Government did commit more resources to addressing this problem. I want to know why, in some areas, the problems appear to be worse than ever."

Ms Bradford said the much lower chance of Maori being given the special benefit amounted to endemic racism within some areas of the Department of Work and Income.

"The Greens believe all people, regardless of their race or where they live, must be told about their eligibility to all allowances when they apply. We must improve front-line staff training, increase the starting wages for DWI staff to attract good people and involve beneficiary advocacy groups in training wherever possible.

"Special benefits can make all the difference to struggling households and some families are living in poverty because the Department is not fulfilling its obligations to properly inform them of their full entitlements," said Ms Bradford.

"The fact that we are still in this situation is a disgrace and I am calling on this Government to take urgent action to sort the problem out and, if this cannot be done, to resource the groups who work with beneficiaries so that they can continue to do the work of the Department."

Sue will ask oral question number two in parliament this afternoon on this Subject.

Ends

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