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Govt is systematically leaving the poor behind

12 July 2006

Government is systematically leaving the poor behind

The Living Standards report is a powerful indictment of Government policies that continue to discriminate against beneficiary families, Green Party Social Development Spokesperson Sue Bradford says.

"The Government still doesn't seem to grasp what has happened in this country over the past 25 years. Real poverty is intensifying, not decreasing. The report shows that since 2000, there has been a sharp increase in severe and significant hardship among the estimated 175,000 New Zealanders who are beneficiary families with children.

"The fact that, for instance, the proportion of children in severe and significant hardship has risen from 18 percent to 26 percent since 2000 is just one telling sign of how the chickens from the reforms of the 1980s and 1990s are now coming to roost - in the form of multi-generational unemployment and poverty.

"The current response by the Government however, will only cement in the discrimination faced by beneficiary families, who have been largely shut out of the Working for Families package.

"The simultaneous demolition of the flexible, more generous Special Benefit scheme will only increase the hardship and suffering cited in the Living Standards Report, and that trend is likely to further intensify during the transition to the Single Core benefit.

"The report shows that Pacific Island and Maori families are already suffering the most hardship. As the economy turns down and unemployment rises, more and more beneficiary families will be exposed to the hardships identified by the researchers.

"Labour can be congratulated for reducing beneficiary numbers, but neither Labour nor National fully understand the impact of what they have perpetrated on low wage workers and unemployed over the past 25 years," Ms Bradford says.

"The bitter reality is that benefit levels are far too low, and so complex to administer that people routinely miss out on their entitlements. Action needs to be taken now to end the discrimination against beneficiaries that is central to the Working for Families package. Looking ahead, the Single Core Benefit reform has to be geared to raising benefit levels - rather than, as seems more likely - forcing them down to the level of the unemployment benefit."

ENDS

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