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Debt Report Confirms Advocates’ Daily Experiences


21/10/03
MEDIA RELEASE
RE: NZCCSS REPORT: The Dynamics Of Debt For Low Income Families
For Immediate Release

Debt Report Confirms Advocates’ Daily Experiences

The Wellington People’s Centre applauds NZCCSS for their release today of their report “The dynamics of debt for low income families”.

The report refutes the popular myth that people are poor because of their own bad decisions. Jessica Morrison, Benefit Rights Coordinator at the Wellington People’s Centre said, “Our experience continually proves to us that the causes of people’s hardship are not only complex, but often exacerbate each other.

We see many people fighting a spiral of debt, with government agencies being frighteningly over represented among the debtors.

It is appalling that social agencies charged with assisting those in need actually worsen their long-term financial situation by their debt policies.

People must have sustainable weekly income, not short term loans from Governments that they then have to repay. Short term assistance for people in crisis must not compromise people’s ability to deal with future expenses.

Work and Income (W&I) are aware of many of the issues raised in this report, and have been continually reminded of them by advocates. This report is a wake up call for Work and Income and other social agencies. They work with the most vulnerable in our society, and must be proactive in ensuring that their practices do not reinforce difficulties”.

We particularly insist that:
- Many people are still not getting their full and correct entitlements, despite W&I’s obligation to ensure they do. It is often not until an advocate becomes involved that entitlements are paid. This week advocates from around the country are gathering at Gisborne W&I offices as part of a concerted effort to raise awareness and ensure people get the assistance they are eligible for.

- Abatement rates of benefits still mean people can be worse off in paid employment than on a benefit. Government departments must redress this problem that means people attempting to re-enter the workforce are penalised for their efforts. Work is not as predictable and long-term as it once was, and Work and Income policies must reflect this.

- In pursuing debt, Government departments must communicate when they have shared clients. People often get caught with income gaps because of bureaucratic gaps between Work and Income, Inland Revenue and the Department of Justice.

- Work and Income must consider non-recoverable debt options as ways to help people deal with crises, not offer further loans.

Information about the Wellington People’s Centre:
The Wellington People’s centre is a membership based organisation of people on benefits and low incomes, providing free advocacy services and low cost health services.

For further information contact: Jessica Morrison
Benefit Rights Coordinator
04 385 8596

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