The Salvation Army supports the intent for this Budget to enhance wellbeing and rebuilding. We acknowledge significant investment in some areas. However, for the 120,000 people who come through our doors each year, there are shortfalls that still need addressing.
The significant increase in social housing over the next four years is very welcome. The Salvation Army has been consistently calling for a multi-billion dollar investment in public and community housing. However, we are not convinced that adding to the stock of transitional housing will address the ongoing shortage of longer-term, affordable housing.
The Salvation Army is pleased with the funding of job creation initiatives in infrastructure and environmental work and the announcment of free training for those who find themselves out of work due to Covid-19. These areas are crucial in enhancing wellbeing through better housing and skilled work.
We are also pleased the Government has recognised the greatly inceased need for food assistance in communities, with the $32m in additional funding to support food banks and networks of food distribution. We see this, however, as a short-term response to an ongoing problem of food insecurity that requires the underlying issues of lack of income, poor housing and health to be addressed.
Increases in funding of $9.7m to support people’s financial capability and $630,000 for Pasifika financial capability are also welcome. We do not believe this will be sufficient to meet the coming need around financial hardship and debt alleviation that people will be facing.
The Salvation Army is disappointed in the lack of initiatives to make the structural change vital to combat the growing number of New Zealanders living in poverty. The Salvation Army sees first-hand the devastation that Covid-19 is having on whānau, and we want to see a long-term strategy to address the increasing need among vulnerable New Zealanders.
We are disppointed that no further significant changes have been made to welfare benefits. Treasury is predicting unemployment numbers will double by June this year, peaking at two and a half times the pre-Covid level by September. Those losing their jobs will face living on welfare support that does not provide adequate incomes. There was also no announcement today of an increase in funding for mental health and addiction services that we believe is urgently needed.
We welcome funding for organisations supporting the work of Whānau Ora, Oranga Tamariki and family violence services, however we would like to see more resource made available for the myriad services needed to support the poorest New Zealanders.
Fifty billion dollars was allocated to the 2020 Budget. With $15.9b worth of spending announced today,and $14b announced prior to the Budget, the Army is calling on the Government to use the remaining $20b to address the shortfalls we have identified.