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Govt support for most vulnerable welcome step

MEDIA RELEASE
For immediate release

3 July 2008

Government support for most vulnerable is a welcome step

A Government announcement today is a welcome step towards addressing the serious issue of poverty in New Zealand.

The announcement by Minister of Social Development and Employment Ruth Dyson today around increased funding for Special Needs Grants for food and other emergencies, and an extension of the core benefit system, will assist in alleviating some of the strain on Kiwi families.

Members of ComVoices, a coalition of organisations in the Tangata Whenua, community and voluntary sector, are keen to see the Government become more aspirational about reducing child poverty levels.

Jo Lake, National Executive Officer of Presbyterian Support New Zealand says the Government is to be congratulated for the work it has done so far, as evidenced by the reduction in poverty shown in the Ministry of Social Development’s Household Incomes report figures.

“The figures show that, using a 60% of median fixed line figure, adjusted for housing costs, overall poverty fell from 19% in 2001 to 13% in 2007. This means that, by the same measure, 130,000 fewer children are living in poverty today than in 2001. However, recent research released by Child Poverty Action Group shows that 150,000 children still are living in poverty – and this continues to be unacceptable, Jo says”

Tina Reid, Director of the New Zealand Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations (NZFVWO) says the Government could be even more aspirational about its goals in reducing poverty.

“Election year is a time for all politicians to outline their vision for the future of New Zealand. None of the major political parties are putting a line in the sand with a view to reducing poverty.”

Other recent Government figures, including reports from the Ministry of Health and Statistics New Zealand, show a broader picture.

Earlier this week, a Ministry of Health Atlas of Socioeconomic Deprivation in New Zealand showed a worrying inequality among communities in accessing funding and social services.

“The deprivation map indicates the poorest areas of New Zealand also have the poorest access to Government-delivered services, says Wendi Wicks, National Policy Researcher for the Disabled Peoples Assembly (DPA.)

“The increase in Special Needs Grants and the changes to the core benefit system announced today may help a little but there is a fundamental need to address the inequalities of access that currently exist and which are perpetuating poverty,” Wendi says.

Thérèse Quinlivan, Director of Community Housing Aotearoa Inc says Statistics New Zealand figures also show that in New Zealand the instances of three families or more living in a single house rose 79.8% from 2001 to 2006. In the period 1986 to 2001 that figure was 394.4%.

“This is an unacceptable poverty trend. It is time for the major political parties to make a commitment to reducing poverty in this country.

Ros Rice, Executive Officer of NZ Council of Social Services (NZCOSS) says Sector organisations are keen to work in partnership with the Government to build stronger communities.

“Sector organisations know what is going on in their communities and they know how best to deliver it. Government recognises that and contracts most of its core social services to Sector organisations,” Ros says.

ENDS

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