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NZCOSS welcomes poverty debate

NZCOSS welcomes recent efforts by John Tamihere and Bill English to stimulate debate on issues of poverty in our communities. However it urges all who contribute to this debate to bear in mind the old saying that every problem has a solution that is simple, easy – and wrong.

Chair Owen Lloyd said that NZCOSS shares the concerns of Messrs Tamihere and English and others about the number of people who are reliant on state benefits. “However the reasons for the numbers of people on welfare and the length of time that some are reliant on benefits are quite complex. They cannot be addressed purely by simple measures such as stronger penalties and tougher work tests. We need to look at the inter-relationships and tensions between social and economic policy. The innovative solutions that are needed to address these are more likely to come from working alongside people than from punishing them.”

“We are disappointed that Mr English is advocating the return of the previous work-requirement regime for DBP recipients”, said Mr Lloyd. “We know this requirement caused many single parents a great deal of anguish, especially if their children were experiencing difficulties and they wanted to be there for them - it’s hard to monitor what your 15-year-old is up to if you have to be at work all day. Parents also found it immensely difficult to find childcare during the school holidays, and it was often hard to get leave if they needed to stay home with a sick child. Society can be quick to judge single parents as bad parents – let’s not put them in a no-win situation.”

NZCOSS also suggests that proponents of contracting out welfare delivery to private or community organisations look long and hard at the outcomes in other countries where this has been tried. “We understand that in places with this system the statistics look good, but what do the lives of those who can no longer access a benefit look like?” asked Mr Lloyd. “NZCOSS believes that to ensure consistent, country-wide standards and processes, the administration of benefits must stay in the hands of the government.”

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