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Let Them Eat Cake

Let Them Eat Cake

Today's announcement from the Minister of additional food entitlement under
the Special needs Grant Programme will be a welcome boost to the pantries of
many on low incomes; be they Superannuitants, low wage earners, or

Kay Brereton Coordinator of the Benefit Rights Service at the Wellington
People's Centre is concerned that this adjustment is simply tinkering at the
edges of an income deficiency problem shared by all who are forced to rely
on the state for income assistance.

While advising that child poverty rates have fallen, the need to help those
who can't afford basics such as food is acknowledged. This seems to
reinforce the key findings of the recent MSD report Pockets of significant
hardship and poverty "Household incomes for beneficiaries with no market
income generally fall within the bounds of two commonly used poverty lines
of 50-60% of the median equivalised disposable household income." (From the
reports key findings)

As part of the Working for Families package a discretionary form of hardship
assistance Special Benefit, was phased out in 2006. Special Benefit's
replacement with the prescriptive non-discretionary Temporary Additional
Support has taken away an important safety net and resulted in the situation
we now see of a widening gap between working families and the poor.

The changes announced by the Minister today do nothing to alleviate this
poverty in the long term, meaning that many of "the country's most
vulnerable" the sick, the disabled, and sole parents face an uncertain
future on an inadequate income, but at least they won't quite starve.


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