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Greens criticise Government's 'bandaid' welfare

3 July 2008

Greens criticise Government's 'bandaid' welfare plans

The Green Party welcomes minor changes to supplementary assistance for beneficiaries announced today, but says they fail to address fundamental faults in the benefit system.

"These changes are just another 'bandaid solution' that won't address the real issues facing beneficiaries with skyrocketing food and fuel prices," Green Party Social Development Spokesperson Sue Bradford says.

"In real terms benefit levels have fallen so low that beneficiaries are now worse off than after Ruth Richardson's 1991 benefit cuts. They need more special needs grants and other types of emergency assistance as their basic income is just not enough to survive on.

"Removing discretion through the abolition of the Special Benefit leaves the welfare system no flexibility to respond to individual need. Many beneficiaries lurch from one financial emergency to the next. Giving them greater ability to go cap-in-hand to Work and Income every time they can't afford to put food on the table doesn't address the real issues," Ms Bradford says.

"The Household Income Report released today shows a welcome income rise for some people, especially working families, but it also confirms the ongoing and entrenched income gap between waged workers and beneficiaries. The discriminatory In-Work Tax Credit component of Working for Families needs to be universalised so it's not just the children of those in paid employment who benefit from it.

"Government should also face up to the fact that Working for Families does nothing for beneficiaries without children, who are becoming an increasingly impoverished and marginalised group. This can only be addressed by increasing benefits levels."

Ms Bradford also criticises the Government's latest moves towards a single core benefit: "All the complexities of different benefit names and rates will remain in legislation - only the public presentation will change. Beneficiaries won't be told they are on an 'invalid's benefit' or an 'unemployment benefit', but those will still be the benefits they actually get.

"The Green Party supports moves towards greater universality and simplicity in the benefit system, but this smoke and mirrors stuff has the potential to further confuse beneficiaries about what their entitlements are.

"It is also another step down the 'Work First' welfare track, setting the scene for any future National-led Government to introduce widespread Work for Dole schemes. National needs to come clean about its welfare policy and tell the public whether Work for Dole will be on its agenda if it leads the Government after the next election.


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