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Child poverty report a call for urgent welfare reform

10/12/2018
AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

The Child Poverty Monitor 2018 report points out one in five kids are living without access to food. People on the benefit were disproportionately affected, with the report highlighting many were spending more than half of their income on rent, leaving them with little left to feed their kids. Auckland Action Against Poverty is calling on immediate welfare reform in light of New Zealand’s high poverty levels stagnating over the past few years.

“The Child Poverty Monitor report is an urgent call to action for the Government to start introducing welfare reforms. With benefit sanctions still in place, and benefit levels below the poverty line, it is no surprise so many kids are going without food every week”, says Ricardo Menendez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator.

“We know a record number of people of people are requiring hardship assistance at Work and Income, with over 350,000 people during the September 2018 quarter having to access some form of emergency assistance because their incomes are too low to cover basic necessities.

“While the Government talks of a kinder approach at Work and Income, people continue being turned down at reception when trying to access food assistance. The increase in food grants is not a result of a kinder approach by the Government, but rather of the increase in the cost of living coupled with low incomes.

“The Labour led Government has not introduced any major changes for our most vulnerable, using the Welfare Expert Advisory Group as fodder to justify its inaction. While a wider reform of the welfare system is needed, the findings of the Child Poverty Monitor report should serve as basis for some more immediate changes. The Families Package has not delivered any substantial changes for people on the benefit who have to rely on secondary assistance such as accommodation supplement.

“Despite promising to remove benefit sanctions on sole parents before the election, Labour has yet to give a clear indication of when it is going to remove them, leaving thousands of mothers penalized and going without enough income to feed their children. This is an overdue change and a failure by the Labour led Government to promptly act to increase the incomes of beneficiaries when a growing number of reports point out at the increase hardship in New Zealand.

“We are calling on the Government to pull out all the stops to reduce the level of food insecurity in this country. It could be simple reforms such as a change of how Work and Income case managers use discretion to deny people assistance for food, or the introduction of legislation to remove benefit sanctions and increase benefit levels. The tools to reduce poverty exist, it’s a matter of the Government being willing to utilise them.

ENDS

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