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Call for urgent and meaningful action on benefits

26 May 2008

Greens call for urgent and meaningful action on benefits

While the Green Party welcomes news that the Government is considering some relief for beneficiaries in the wake of last week's Budget, it says the changes are not enough.

"It is high time the Government stopped relegating those on benefits to a life of deepening poverty and social exclusion at a time when beneficiaries are worse off than they were after the 1991 benefit cuts," Green Party Social Development Spokesperson Sue Bradford says.

"The Government appears to be considering minor top ups to additional assistance for single invalid beneficiaries, and to special needs grants for food.

"While both these measures would be welcome, they are a drop in a bucket compared to the desperate circumstances faced by many people whose benefits are simply nowhere near enough to live on, especially at this time of rising food, fuel, transport and housing costs.

"The Greens call on Michael Cullen and Social Development Minister Ruth Dyson to urgently lift core benefit levels across the board, restore the discretion lost to the benefit system when the Special Benefit was abolished several years ago, and to delete the discriminatory 'In Work' component of Working for Families so it is available to all children, not just those whose parents are in the workforce.

"Tackling the problems in a small and piecemeal manner will only make our ramshackle benefit system even less fair than it is already, as well as compounding administrative complexities for frontline Work and Income staff," Ms Bradford says.

"It is high time the Labour Government took bold action to seriously remedy the growing and impossible income gap between wage workers and beneficiaries, not by tinkering with a few allowances on the edges but by dealing with the heart of the problem - benefits that are too low and a ridiculously complex and discriminatory system."


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