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CPAG Urges Government To Change Welfare Plans

Child Advocates Call On Government To Change Welfare Plans

The Minister for Social Development, Steve Maharey’s response on the Child Poverty Action report Cut Price Kids: Does the 2004 ‘Working for Families’ Budget Work for Children? is ill-considered, the audience at the report launch were told today in Auckland..

Mr Maharey has been reported as saying Cut Price Kids was “unscientific”. But report co-author Dr David Craig said “when he reads past page one of the executive summary, he’ll realise there’s lots of grunty scientific and other analysis in there…We’d encourage him to read it fully and reflect more deeply on its contents.”

The other co-author, Dr Susan St John, said the government should rethink its entire “Working for Families” social welfare package. “It’s not too late for the government to do something about the package,” said Dr St John at the launch. “We’d like them to rethink the design.”

The report finds that in its present form, the package will “entrench an underclass even further by leaving the most vulnerable behind; even worse-off than before, relatively-speaking.”

It goes on to point out several such “design flaws” – the In Work Payment, reduction of core benefits and reduction of temporary hardship assistance.

A comparison with both Australia and the United Kingdom shows that New Zealand is “well out of step” when it comes to child poverty reduction. Both countries overseas have universal or near-universal child payments, and overall are more generous to families.

175,000 children who are currently live in poverty will miss out on the In Work Payment because their parents’ income includes benefit assistance. The report criticises this: “leaving some 175,000 New Zealand children behind in a major policy initiative like Working for Families is simply not good enough.” Dr David Craig referred to this today, saying “the government has effectively said ‘we’ve got a surplus of $7 billion but guess what? we’re not going to give it to the poorest people, we’re going to give it to the next poor’… “These kids should be at the front of the line but instead they’re at the back.”

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