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Benefit Reforms Must Focus on Jobs and Children

Benefit Reforms Must Focus on Jobs and Children

“The “Future Focus“ benefit reforms encourage misguided assumptions and beneficiary bashing. They will be an expensive exercise that achieves little unless the government changes from the language of blaming beneficiaries and focuses on real support into appropriate jobs” said Shaun Robinson, the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS) President.

“We agree that well paid, family-friendly employment is best for most New Zealand families. However, it is the supply of work that influences benefit numbers the most, not threats and language that encourages people to blame beneficiaries. Unemployment, including long term unemployment, came down significantly when the economy was doing well. In the recession unemployment has doubled. It is ludicrous to use beneficiary blaming in this context.” said Mr Robinson.

“When people have been raising children on the DPB or been out of work for a long time or been ill they can lose confidence and skills” Shaun Robinson said. “It would be better to focus the money being allocated to punitive measures on genuine case management and training that supports people into work. We know this approach is successful so lets use it”.

“Of course a small minority exploit the system, but most beneficiaries are just struggling to survive. These reforms are crushing a walnut with a sledgehammer and will hurt many people in the process” said Shaun Robinson.

“We want to remind the government that raising children is very important work. Our agencies see many working poor where ‘latchkey’ children are exposed to potential harm, where parents are working multiple jobs and are away from home at all hours of the day and night. How much work is out there that allows a solo Mum to be home when her six year old is not at school? As a society we want those Mums to be raising safe, healthy, well educated children”.

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“We do support Minister Bennett in seeking to free families from poverty traps. Increasing abatement levels so that beneficiaries can earn more is very welcome” said NZCCSS Executive Officer Trevor McGlinchey.

“Advising beneficiaries seeking hardship allowances to get and implement budget advice will help some families. But our members report that many beneficiaries are expert budgeters – they have to be to survive” says Executive Officer McGlinchey. “We will be looking for a significant package of support for budget advice and other services for beneficiaries in the next Budget. Otherwise beneficiaries and social agencies are being set up to fail.”

“Beneficiaries are not ‘living the dream’ – the NZCCSS Vulnerability Report on the recession shows this clearly” said Shaun Robinson

Vulnerability Reports are available on-line from the www.justiceandcompassion.org.nz website.

ENDS

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