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Time to address the causes, not symptoms, of inequality

It’s time to address the causes, not symptoms, of inequality

Media Release: The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW)

5 December 2019

A new publication by the Salvation Army offers a timely reminder that bolder solutions need to be considered to meaningfully reduce inequality and poverty in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“While the Association welcomes government policies and initiatives to ameliorate hardship, this report is a much-needed wake-up call on the stark reality of the situation which should compel us as a society to dig deeper to find solutions. It can’t be ignored,” ANZASW Chief Executive Lucy Sanford-Seed said.

The analysis found that income inequality remains high and is not decreasing; the proportion of children living in the poorest households is increasing; economic growth over a generation has barely benefited those on the lowest incomes and that government remedies so far are not sufficient to lift those in this group out of deprivation.

The poorest Households which include around 100,000 children, need at least another $112 per week to reach sufficiency, the document said.

“The cycle of poverty in low-income households can be broken when those affected are empowered and able to access more than just lifelines; when policy directly directly addresses the causes, not just the symptoms, of deprivation.

“To significantly improve social, economic and well-being statistics more generally, incomes and resources need to be raised to a level that meets the complex and long-standing needs that exist and have existed for decades in Aotearoa.

“To make such a change will require close cooperation at different levels of society: between the executive, government agencies, the statutory and NGO social services sector, community groups and individuals, drawing on expanded resources,” Sandford-Reed said.

As the paper points out, many of the policy options required to make the substantial changes needed have already been identified in government-commissioned papers and are waiting to be implemented in full. These include the recommendations provided by the Tax Working and Welfare Experts Advisory Groups, calling for beneficiaries to be paid more and for wealth needs to be taxed fairly.

“These recommendations need to be implemented as soon as possible.

“This is not a hand-out it’s an investment in our country. It’s well-established that inequality is inextricably linked to increased pressures on the health and welfare system, higher rates of incarceration per capita, less social cohesion, high levels of household debt and, as the OECD has observed, slower growth, all of which carry heavy costs. It’s a false economy to ignore this.

“It is in all our interests to improve the stats on inequality by making investments now at a time of economic strength,” Sandford-Reed asserted.

ENDS

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