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Beneficiaries better off under Labour

Hon Ruth Dyson
Minister for Social Development & Employment, Minister for Senior Citizens, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Minister for Disability Issues

11 May2008 Media Statement

Beneficiaries better off under Labour

People receiving benefits today are getting more money and more support to reduce the costs of essential items than ever before, says Social Development Minister Ruth Dyson.

“The total package of government support provided for our poorest families includes not only income support but also support to reduce essential costs as well as more individually tailored support to help families meet their needs,” said Ruth Dyson.

She was responding to a newspaper report indicating that people on benefits today receive a smaller percentage of the average wage than they did in 1991.

“It is misleading to simply say that benefits are lower when compared to wages. The fact that wages have risen faster than the rate of inflation does not make those on benefits worse off,” said Ruth Dyson.

“It is also unfair and inaccurate to suggest this Government is not caring for poor people. To quote social policy researcher Charles Waldegrave: this Government’s Working for Families package is ‘the greatest redistribution of wealth downwards we’ve had in 30 years’. That package was introduced after the report that is used as the basis of the newspaper article.

“When you look at the total package of support that we provide today, people on benefits are far better off than they were in the 1990s.

“Firstly, the government has ensured that the income of beneficiary families have kept pace with inflation. We have made annual inflation adjustments to benefits to maintain their real value with regular CPI adjustments. This never happened under the National government.

“Under Working for Families, beneficiary families receive the Family Tax Credit as well as their benefit. Comparing the tax year ending March 2007 with pre-Working for Families, on average a beneficiary family with no wages or salary gained $38 per week.

“The Labour-led government has made significant changes to the costs faced by beneficiary families in meeting their essential needs. The average beneficiary family receives additional support to:

• Reduce their housing costs through the restoration of income-related rents for state housing and improvements to the Accommodation Supplement. The average household in a state house is $35 per week better off as a result of income-related rents. The Working for Families package provides additional support through the Accommodation Supplement to help meet remaining housing costs.

• Reduce their childcare costs through Working for Families childcare subsidies, and, for families with children aged three or four, 20 hours Free Early Childcare Education.

• Reduce their health care costs, with 74% of children under six benefiting from free visits to their doctor.

“In addition, parent support and development programmes are being provided to more beneficiaries with young children. The Early Start and Family Start programmes, for example, have been expanded to provide support to approximately 6,000 families.

“Work and Income is also investing more time with families to give individual support, including budgetary advice.

“Further, we have significantly reduced the number of people out of work, so there are now far fewer people dependent upon government support than was the case in 1991.

“We agree that there is still more to be done. We are dedicated to investing in ways to eliminate poverty and improve life for individuals, families and communities, both economically and socially.

“That is why we have invested in initiatives such as Working for Families, paid parental leave, cheaper doctor’s fees and 20 hours free early childhood education.

“From 2001 to 2008, an estimated total of 130,000 children are expected to be lifted out of poverty as a result of increasing employment, decreasing unemployment, Working for Families and other government policies.

“The Labour-led Government is proud of our record. We also recognise that achieving a fair and just society is an ongoing effort and we will continue to strive towards that goal,” said Ruth Dyson.


ENDS

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