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Welfare realities contradict rosy Govt picture

25 October 2006

Welfare realities contradict rosy Government picture

Green Party Welfare Spokesperson Sue Bradford has raised a series of examples in the House to illustrate the desperate state of welfare delivery in New Zealand, and the lack of consistency in the administration of welfare assistance to the country's most needy people.

"The reality on the ground contradicts the rosy Government assurances about the extent of assistance available. In the House this week I have been giving a series of examples of the hardship being endured due to the inconsistent way the criteria are being applied between and within regions, and the lack of flexibility in the response to those in genuine need.

"Some of this hardship is of the Government's own making. The abolition of the Special Benefit earlier this year ushered in a less generous, less flexible system for those in greatest need. Even though the Working for Families package has helped out families in paid work, it has left the most vulnerable beneficiaries and their children almost entirely out of the equation.

"Beneficiaries and their children face meanly devised and variably administered systems that routinely. leave them without their due entitlements, and that sometimes impose stand-down periods on seasonal workers and others who are in desperate need through no fault of their own.

The details that make these programmes workable are often left hanging. In the seasonal worker initiatives announced today by Immigration Minister David Cunliffe for instance, will those temporary migrant workers brought in from the Pacific be eligible for welfare assistance, and will they face long stand-down periods between work, or during bad weather conditions? Such issues have plagued seasonal workers who are New Zealand citizens, and may well be worse for migrant workers.

"We are still waiting to hear from Employment Minister David Benson-Pope about his proposed 'Single Core Benefit' plans, and what provisions will ensure such a scheme is flexible to guarantee that no one who is out of work, sick, or raising children on their own is left in need, due to failing to get past a core set of bureaucratic hurdles. Or through falling foul of a punitive new abatement regime.

"The Green Party would scrap the entire 1964 Social Security Act, and start again with a much simpler system operating on principles of sufficiency and universality. Those in need deserve the dignity of having enough to live on so they can participate fully in society without being treated as second class citizens by the department whose job it is to serve them."

ENDS

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