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Government addresses living standards

11 July 2006

Government addresses living standards

Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope said today that the Living Standards research painted a largely positive picture, and that the Working for Families package will have further improved living standards since the research was done.

Mr Benson-Pope welcomed the news that 76% of New Zealand families reported very comfortable to very good living standards. He stated his concern, however, that while the proportion of families experiencing some form of hardship hadn't increased, there had been a 3% shift in the proportion of this group experiencing severe hardship.

Mr Benson-Pope said that the Working for Families package will have already addressed these findings. "Government launched Working for Families in 2004, after the data for the Living Standards research had been collected", he said. "The package has had a dramatic effect on family incomes, which isn't reflected in these statistics."

Mr Benson-Pope said that in its first year, additional Family Support through Working for Families increased beneficiary families' incomes by an average of $32 a week. "Beneficiary families are also gaining from two other components of the package: increased accommodation assistance, and increased childcare assistance", he said.

"Additionally, over the past two years, Unemployment Benefit numbers have dropped by 28,000, to below 40,000 for the first time since 1982 years. Domestic Purposes Benefit Sole Parent numbers have dropped by 8,000 in the same period, and overall working-age benefit numbers by 29,000. This represents people moving into real jobs, bigger incomes, and better futures," Mr Benson-Pope said.

Mr Benson-Pope said that other measures introduced since 2004, like cheaper doctor's visits and lower prescription costs, were also making a huge difference to families. "The Labour-led Government is the Government for families. We've made big strides since the data was collected, and the good progress is set to continue".

Mr Benson-Pope said that Working for Families, increased employment, and reduced reliance on benefits would all have relieved hardship over the past two years for the groups highlighted in the report.

ENDS

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