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Call To Prioritise Universal Family Benefit


18 March 2003

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CALL TO PRIORITISE UNIVERSAL FAMILY BENEFIT

National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ) applauds today's release of Child Poverty Action Group's report (second edition), Our Children: The Priority for Policy. The report has raised debate on the merits of reinstating the Universal benefit and the impact of family support.

A study undertaken by the NCWNZ Economics Standing Committee into the Universal Family benefit at the start of last year revealed that low-income families have lost a significant amount of purchasing power since the inception of family support in 1986. NCWNZ believes that the lack of improvement for poor families, despite economic growth, is partly due to tight targeting of government assistance.

"This makes it difficult for those in the lowest income groups, including many in full time work, to improve as earning extra income results in a claw back of state assistance", says Beryl Anderson, National President of NCWNZ. "This is particularly true when the targeting is based on the family unit as apposed to the individual."

During the past decade, the dominant philosophy in New Zealand has been to provide welfare "only for the poor" and accordingly there has been a sharp shift towards a tightly targeted policy framework.

In September last year, the National Council of Women of New Zealand passed a remit to ensure low income families will receive fairer financial support in future.

The remit requests the Government to link all family support payments to the inflation index, to extend the Child Tax Credit to all low-income families and in the long term, to replace the Child Tax Credit with a universal benefit for all children.

"Family Support is not automatically adjusted for inflation so over time, the real level of spending power it represents has been eroded" says Miss Anderson.

"The Child Tax Credit system does assist those who qualify", says Miss Anderson "but those who do not meet the current eligibility rules continue to struggle and this method of family assistance is difficult to administer."

ENDS

For further information contact -

Beryl Anderson
National President
National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ)
PO Box 12 117
Wellington
ph 04 473 7623


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