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Welfare Law must become more child-centred

Welfare Law must become more child-centred

This is a vital opportunity for politicians to move to a more child-centred approach to social welfare. That is a key message from NZCCSS today to MPs at Parliament’s Social Services Select Committee hearing on the Social Security Legislation Rewrite Bill.

NZCCSS Policy Advisor Paul Barber told MPs that “this Bill is a timely opportunity to make changes to income support to make it more ‘child-centred’ and line up with the express purpose of changes to Child, Youth and Family recently announced by Minister Hon Anne Tolley. The Bill also needs to be consistent with the Vulnerable Children’s Act 2014 that includes the clear aim of ‘improving the social and economic wellbeing’ of vulnerable children. “

“Clauses around additional dependent children that place work obligations on women with very young children, sanctions for not disclosing the father of a child, and the arbitrary claw-back of $25 per week from Temporary Additional Support are just three of the worst examples in a Bill that in its current form is anything but child-centred,” said Paul Barber.

As well as this, the Bill does not ensure that there are inflation adjustments for all types of benefits or for the thresholds for Accommodation Supplement or additional earnings while on a benefit. Even better would be to set benefit levels as a percentage of average wages to ensure that those unable to access paid work do not see their incomes falling further behind those in paid employment.

“The evidence published in our recent Vulnerability Report shows that families with children are high amongst those who are really struggling in this country,” says Paul Barber. “The welfare system is failing those children and their families, denying them access to sufficient income and leaving them without adequate food, clothing, healthcare or housing. “

NZCCSS is also calling for a truly 21st Century approach to social welfare, in line with the principles set out in the Welfare Justice For All report of the Alternative Welfare Working Group in 2010. “Welfare for the 21st Century needs to be based on the values of interdependence, social cohesiveness and the common good. The current work-focused approach is inadequate and any rewrite should be based on broader and more robust principles.”

“We recommend that further principles be written into the Bill to make it clear that the purpose of the legislation is to reduce poverty and to place a clear duty on the Ministry of Social Development to ensure all those receiving support receive all that they are entitled to.”

NZCCSS is urging MPs to choose fairer and hope-filled options to support people in the greatest need. Church leaders have over many years called for a compassionate response to the needs of those on the margins of our society. The 2011 combined Church Leaders’ statement said that “We see it as the responsibility of the State as providing for a just sharing of society’s wealth and resources… These are not privileges, but part of the common heritage of humanity.”

The full NZCCSS submission on the Social Security Rewrite Bill is online at nzccss.org.nz/publications/


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