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Officials scramble to cover for PM

Officials scramble to cover for PM


Government officials have been scrambling to cover for the Prime Minister after he wrongly suggested that newborns whose parents were on a benefit could get special help in the first few weeks of their life, the Green Party said today.

Last night the Social Development Minister issued a ‘directive’ to her chief executive to ‘consider’ whether someone had a newborn baby when they were applying for hardship assistance from WINZ.

This followed the Prime Minister’s conformation during question time this week that the bulk of babies born into poor households were excluded from hundreds of dollars a week in financial assistance provided in the budget for all other newborns.

"John Key answered my questions about the decision to leave out most poor babies from this support by saying those whose families lived on a benefit could access alternative support through emergency benefits or extra supplementary payments," Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said.

"This ‘directive’ is a desperate scramble to cover up for the Prime Minister who either knew absolutely nothing about the lack of dedicated support for most babies living in poverty or just didn't care.

"This is nasty on so many levels. Clearly WINZ staff have never been told to consider whether a family had a newborn before this directive was issued, and there is still no dedicated support to give these babies a good start in life, like there is for all other babies.

"WINZ has merely been told to ‘consider’ if a parent has a newborn, which is almost meaningless on its own and made more so by the fact that in most cases families will have to repay any of the assistance they're lucky enough to be given.

"This last minute ‘directive’ shows that John Key was wrong, there was no particular financial assistance designed to help families of newborn babies who were on a benefit, who make up at least 60 per cent of all babies in poverty.

"The budget was sold as being big on support for young families, particularly newborns. Lower income families were given an additional $70 a week in support for their newborns in the budget. This was designed to reduce family stress and provide money for essentials, but it came with the proviso that parents had a job. Babies whose parents didn’t have a job were given absolutely nothing.

“It’s bad enough to punish an adult for not having a job but to punish a newborn baby is a step too far,” Mrs Turei said.

Link to the questions in the House from Metiria Turei to John Key: http://www.parliament.nz/resource/en-nz/50HansQ_20140521_00000012/38709c8d94f321fcf730ad4ae9ace5327a4a804d

Link to the newborn directive https://www.greens.org.nz/sites/default/files/newborn_directive.pdf

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