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Report confirms need for urgent action on benefits

12 May 2008

MSD report confirms need for urgent action on benefits

The MSD report highlighted in media yesterday is damning confirmation that Labour's welfare policies condemn many beneficiaries and their families to a life of debt, deprivation and despair.

"That MSD itself, in its report 'Pockets of Significant Hardship and Poverty', has revealed that beneficiaries are worse off now than in 1991 indicts both Labour and National Governments' use of low benefits as a cruel and deliberate welfare strategy," Green Party Social Development Spokesperson Sue Bradford says.

"If Labour has any genuine concern about the deepening poverty of beneficiaries, they must take action in the upcoming Budget.

"It is now clear that Labour believes the best way of motivating beneficiaries into paid work is to keep benefits so low that people are so desperate to work it doesn't matter what situation they find themselves in.

"This ignores the fact that people are on benefits because the work simply isn't there, or because they are sole parents bringing up children, or because they are sick, injured or impaired in ways that make it difficult if not impossible for them to hold down a job.

"We have become a very uncaring society, epitomised by the Working for Families programme which deliberately discriminates against beneficiaries by making a special 'in work payment' only for families where at least one parent is in paid employment," Ms Bradford says.

"The Minister can no longer pretend she doesn't know what is happening when her own department says that many beneficiaries are living far below the Government's own poverty lines.

"Fast rising food, fuel, transport and accommodation costs are now making a bad situation even worse."

"If the Green Party were in Government we would:

-Lift core benefits to levels people can actually live on without going further into debt.

-Make Working for Families payments equal for all parents by replacing it with a Universal Child Benefit.

-Restore the discretion lost in the benefit system when the Special Benefit was removed.

-Increase the maximum Accommodation Supplement to a realistic level consistent across New Zealand.

"The fact that, sadly, major job losses are being announced on almost a weekly basis at the moment - including the possible loss of 400 jobs at PPCS meatworks in Dannevirke this morning - makes it more urgent than ever that the Government take action on benefit levels."

ENDS

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