Community Law Service concerned at new welfare policies
For immediate release - 17 September 2012
Waitākere Community Law Services concerned at new welfare policies
The Waitākere Community Law Centre (WCLS) has expressed its’ concern at the impact of the Government’s new welfare policies on some of Waitakere’s most vulnerable families and, in particular, their children.
Paula Bold-Wilson, manager of the WCLS says “Every morning our waiting room is full of people, half of them beneficiaries, who are doing their best to make ends meet in difficult economic times. Some of them have been forced into extremely grim situations by borrowing from fringe lenders, missing rental payments or having major utilities disconnected. The effect of such issues on families can be devastating.”
WCLS worries that these new welfare policies will not have their intended effect and instead will force those most in need into even more despairing situations.
“We need to be clear that beneficiaries are a group in our society who need our support, not our censure” says Rebecca Vertongen a lawyer at the Community Law Service. “If the government intends to drug test beneficiaries, what support are they going to introduce to ensure that those who need it receive treatment - and what will happen to the children in these families during such treatment?
“Forcing parents to place their children into early childhood education is not going to address the underlying issues such as poverty and social exclusion that may have prevented them from accessing that education in the first place. There are many reasons why people may not be accessing early childhood education, let’s find out what those reasons are before introducing policies that take away parents’ rights to decide what’s best for their children and punish them for it.
“In addition, WCLS has seen many examples of people who have had warrants outstanding due to no fault of their own. Some have had family members use their identities to rack up huge fines or debts, or when arrested. It often takes a lot of time to get such messes sorted out. Our judicial system has always maintained that a person is innocent until found guilty, why should this be any different for our social welfare system?”
The Waitākere Community Law Service also worries that beneficiaries, whose benefits are cut by half for non-compliance, may be forced into accessing support through borrowing from fringe lenders at high rates of interest. Often such lenders require that a borrower use all their worldly possessions as collateral, which can result in a family losing everything.
“The government may be introducing these policies with the best of intentions, but there needs to be an awareness that the number of flow on effects for families, and especially children will be disastrous.”
ABOUT THE WAITĀKERE COMMUNITY LAW SERVICE
The Waitākere Community Law Service (WCLS) is a community law centre as defined by the Legal Services Act 2000. The service was established in 2005 to enhance the lives of those most in need and who lives are impacted by unresolved legal issues in the Waitākere, North Shore and Rodney communities. Our communities of interest cover a geographical area of approximately 481,653 residents.
WCLS focuses its legal services towards promoting community well-being and increasing community capacity to address legal and other social problems. In order to achieve this, we prioritise marginalised groups by focusing on addressing the unmet legal needs of those most disadvantaged in our community.