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Budget boosts support for low-income families

Hon Bill English
Minister of Finance
Hon Tariana Turia
Minister for Whānau Ora

16 May 2013

Low-income families receive considerable further assistance in Budget 2013 to improve their quality of life, Finance Minister Bill English and Whānau Ora Minister Tariana Turia say.

Mr English, who chairs the Ministerial Committee on Poverty, says taxpayers already spend billions of dollars on social services, and the new spending in Budget 2013 is a combination of extending proven programmes, and new initiatives targeted at supporting vulnerable New Zealanders.

“Budget 2013 continues our commitment to supporting New Zealand families in need while maintaining the responsible fiscal disciplines that have been a hallmark of this Government and are serving the country well,” Mr English says.

Mrs Turia, who is deputy chair of the Ministerial Committee and co-leader of the Māori Party, says the Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty provided recommendations that would make an immediate difference.

They include introducing a Warrant of Fitness test on housing and taking up a range of mutually reinforcing actions across agencies.

“Budget 2013 is addressing some of the poverty challenges, including by extending the Government’s commitment to home insulation. Urgency is also being given to further investment in helping reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever,” she says.

Budget 2013 initiatives offering direct and practical support to low-income families span a range of ministerial portfolios and comprise:

• $100 million over three years for the Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes programme targeting low-income households, particularly those with children or elderly occupants or high health needs, for home insulation.

• More than $21 million over the next four years for rheumatic fever prevention.
• An extra $1.5 million for Budgeting Services in 2013/14, in addition to the $8.9 million provided already in 2012/13.
• A whiteware procurement programme to enable beneficiaries to purchase new appliances under warranty using Ministry of Social Development repayable grants.
• A commitment to investigate and pilot a partnership with NGOs and financial institutions to support the provision of low and no interest loans for low-income borrowers.
• A trial on Housing New Zealand properties of a Warrant of Fitness programme for rental housing.

Some of these initiatives were included in the Children’s Commissioner’s child poverty report, which the Government will respond to in the next few weeks.

“These initiatives are the result of the National and Māori Parties working together to alleviate the effects of poverty in Aotearoa,” Mrs Turia says.

“The Warm Up NZ programme will be targeted towards low-income families with children and those with high health needs.

“Warm and dry homes are fundamental to reducing the risk of children contracting illnesses that not only create misery, but might also jeopardise their school attendance and have other lifelong serious consequences.”

As part of the Government’s social housing reform programme, $26.6 million over the next four years will be used to extend income-related rent subsidies to tenants in non-government community housing.

The Government wants to see more New Zealanders taking opportunities to reduce their reliance on state support, but it is also important that practical measures are available to help people in need, he says.

“Budget 2013 delivers on the Government’s commitment to ongoing support for families in need, while ensuring the effective use of taxpayers’ money during tight financial times,” Mr English says.

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