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Sanctions not the way to balance welfare books

Sanctions not the way to balance welfare books

The Salvation Army is concerned about the social cost of the Government’s planned benefit reforms.

Salvation Army spokesman Captain Gerry Walker says changes such as raising the earning thresholds for beneficiaries in part-time work, extra funding for Out of School Programmes and more support for helping beneficiaries become work-ready are welcome.

“However, the proposals of work testing and sanctions at a time of a scarcity of jobs seem unnecessarily punitive, particularly when most beneficiaries would take up work tomorrow if it was available,” Captain Walker says.

Without job growth, the Government’s measures are unworkable, particularly when beneficiaries are already vulnerable and struggling on meagre incomes, Captain Walker says.

The possible impact of sanctions on beneficiary families could include: eviction or the inability to pay for power and basic services, healthcare or food.

Captain Walker says forcing single parents into work could see New Zealand facing fiscally expensive social problems down the track.

“We are quick to accuse single parents of not supervising or caring for their children, but if parents are away from home pursuing poor-paying part-time work, this becomes a recipe for more troubled and neglected children,” he says.

Over the past year, The Salvation Army has seen a 40 per cent increase in the demand for food parcels. The Salvation Army has no wish to see these lines of desperate people seeking food assistance lengthen as the State takes it for granted that already hard-pressed non-governmental agencies can cope with a flood of displaced beneficiaries, Captain Walker says.

“The Government needs to be careful not to exploit the goodwill and patience of charitable groups who will have to step in and respond to the human cost of this policy.”

If the Government must go through with its reforms, The Salvation Army asks that they are rolled out with caution and at a pace that follows improvements in the job market.


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