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Voting – a Valentine’s Day Special

Voting – a Valentine’s Day Special

While some of us celebrate this traditional Day of Love with a Significant Other or date and others of us rage against tradition or bemoan the fact we have no current romantic love, others of us count our blessings that we still have family to love and yet others can’t even afford a home or food for the ones we love!

This year, as we come up to the time of elections, I hope we can all THINK about what sort of policies we want to vote for and whether they will protect not just our own loved ones but everyone’s families in New Zealand.

Beneficiary Advisory Service (BAS) is a Christchurch based community group working with people on benefits and low incomes, so we see a lot of poverty issues for a large group of people through no fault of their own.

For most of us, we receive a little more each year in income, but this doesn’t quite cover the rises in cost of living that is increasing fast. For those at the bottom – the lowest wages and benefits, there wasn’t enough to start with and things get worse every year. There is not enough money in a benefit for most people’s essential costs. This leads to debt for many as they try to survive in the short-term but making things worse in the long-term. For some, it will mean sub-standard housing or over-crowding as families cannot afford to rent their own home. For most on this low income, it means that they cannot afford the healthy food they need each day to be able to continue being able to function mentally and physically. This means any workers in the family may suffer from illness and any children in the family will be affected in their ability to learn at school. Too many people also catch what should be preventable diseases from these situations.

This isn’t just affecting people on low incomes. This affects the whole country as the cost of making people better or supporting people with inadequate education is much higher than ensuring these people learn and don’t get sick in the first place! It is simple maths that means people of all income brackets should support a System where all citizens can afford their basic needs.

BAS supports the message of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the Salvation Army who both say to political parties in election year that New Zealand must tackle the root causes of child poverty. This should be done with bold policies across sectors (income, housing and health) to make any progress. As to make a real difference, we need well thought out policies that address ALL the underlying causes (and symptoms) of poverty.

We agree with Dr Carpenter of CPAG who says, "Every child deserves to thrive, and any changes introduced by the Government need to include a comprehensive plan to reduce poverty. A parallel social policy programme that addresses poverty and the problems it creates would be ideal. Inadequate incomes result in struggling families having to go without basic necessities such as food, a warm and dry home, and adequate health care. These stresses have a harmful effect on children's learning and development and educational success."

For children to stay healthy, families need enough money for nutritious food, facilities for cooking, laundry and personal hygiene. They need access to hot water, soap, clean towels, clothing, shoes, bedding and basic first aid. Money is also needed for adequate housing and doctors’ fees. These are the kind of things lacking in some poorer households but should be present for everyone in New Zealand. Too many people, including hundreds of thousands of children, are living in poverty in New Zealand. Do you think this is okay? If not, look at policies that will change things for the better.

We share the concern of the above groups that little has been accomplished in the last few years to change these facts.

So what has this got to do with love? If we love our families and our communities, we will create a better society for everyone, one we can be proud of! Be considerate and caring of one another and give your support & vote to policies that will improve the whole country. What we need is a society that appreciates everyone, that looks to understand & support, rather than judge. Greed and Selfishness didn’t work; let’s try sharing and caring.

* Vote with your conscience not just your back pocket *

Written by Rebecca Occleston, Speaker: Beneficiary Advisory Service (BAS)

Beneficiary Advisory Service is a non-profit group in Christchurch who help people on benefits and low incomes with their problems with Work and Income. We are specialists in Welfare Law and provide advice, information, support and advocacy. Visit our website at www.bas.org.nz

ENDS

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