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Ending Winter Energy Payment Would Throw Te Hunga Kaumatua Into Hardship

Incomes are scheduled to be cut up to $63 a week for many of our low-income households in less than a month. Auckland Action Against Poverty is joining Child Poverty Action Group’s call to increase incomes, instead of cutting them, as an ongoing crisis-response measure.

“Ending the Winter Energy Payment will hit low-income communities at a time of uncertainty and during a global pandemic. COVID-19 is making life harder for people already impacted by our inequality and housing crisis”, says Fred Andrews, Auckland Action Against Poverty Spokesperson.

“We are particularly concerned for senior citizens renting and without savings who rely on income support to pay their essentials. We know that more of our kaumatua and kuia have needed food grants to survive. The number of people needing hardship grants has rapidly increased, with hardship grants for senior citizens increasing by 50% in the past 5 years as of 2018.

“Māori and Pasifika senior citizens are one of our most at risk groups from COVID-19, and we need to make sure we are not cutting their incomes at a time they need additional support. Ending the Winter Energy Payment will leave more of our elderly needing food grants and isolated from accessing basic utilities.

“We are concerned low-income senior citizens will have to choose between paying their rent or eating adequate kai.

“The Government recognised that COVID-19 would increase the need for low-income families, at a time when income support was already too low for beneficiaries to survive. Keeping the Winter Energy Payment at the current rate would give us some security to kaumatua and kuia while the Government increases core incomes and overhauls our welfare system.

“We are calling on the Government to continue the Winter Energy Payment until they increase core benefits to a liveable levels and build enough public housing. The Government has yet to deliver sufficient changes to beneficiaries and superannuants with low-incomes. The Winter Energy Payment is not the solution to our broken welfare system, but it provides a much-needed boost at a time of crisis.

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