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Government earns fail mark from Social Report

8 August 2006
Government earns fail mark from Social Report

Today's 2006 Social Report shows that the Government is failing to bridge the widening gaps between rich and poor in this country, Green Party Social Development Spokesperson Sue Bradford says.

" The plain fact is that incomes have been rising for those at the top, while there has been 'relatively little change' for the 20 per cent on low incomes. The Government is either treading water when it comes to tackling the issues of poverty and income inequality, or is going backwards," Ms Bradford says.

"Within the Report's timeframe, the segment of the population living below the 60 per cent poverty threshold was still higher than it was in 1998. Inroads made into poverty have been miniscule. In June 2001, 22.6 per cent of dependent children were living in families ranked among the three lowest income tiers and that figure has barely budged since, to 21 per cent..The same period saw a three per cent rise in those suffering severe hardship.

" The Government can try to say that its Working For Families package is now tackling the problems the Social Report identified as being prevalent in 2004. In fact, Working For Families systematically discriminates against beneficiaries and their families. The very people who this Report identifies as being among the most needy and vulnerable families in New Zealand are being deliberately left behind. As the economy heads south, this situation can only get worse.

"Beneficiary families for instance, are over-represented in the lowest indicators, but they are discriminated against by WFF. They are also being hit with a double whammy. The Special Benefit has been eliminated - and replaced by the Temporary Additional Support measure, over which Work and Income has a lot less discretion when people find that they can't make ends meet. In the depth of winter, this change is now hitting people really hard, as power costs are going through the roof."

."Some workable solutions ? End discriminatory youth wages for workers under 18. Lift the adult minimum wage to $12 immediately, and make Working for Families equitable for beneficiary families.

"Beneficiaries and their families should not continue to be neglected in the name of a politically driven 'Welfare to Work' strategy that leaves a quarter of the population in desperate straits," Ms Bradford says.

ENDS

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