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Labour Party’s Welfare Policy Condemns Beneficiaries To Poverty

The Labour Party’s welfare announcement does not commit to further increases to core benefit levels in the short term, the individualisation of benefits and the removal of sanctions. Auckland Action Against Poverty welcomes the changes to the abatement threshold for part-time workers but warns that the Labour Party is leaving thousands of beneficiaries in hardship by not addressing obvious core issues within our welfare system.

“The Labour Party is showing a sheer disregard for people on the benefit. We are disappointed there is no interest from the Prime Minister and the Labour Party to make any further immediate increases to benefit levels, despite all the evidence pointing to people on the benefit struggling to make ends meet”, says Agnes Magele, Auckland Action Against Poverty Spokesperson and beneficiary.

“While the changes to the abatement threshold will mean part-time workers will be able to earn more money before their benefits get cut-off, the Labour Party fails to recognise that people on the benefit deserve a life with dignity independent of their employment status. Caregiving, community work and domestic labour are all things that are not properly valued under the Labour Party’s policy.

“Auckland Action Against Poverty launched its Liveable Incomes For All campaign earlier this year, inviting political parties to commit to lifting incomes to liveable levels, individualising benefits and removing all sanctions within three years. Both the Green Party and the Māori Party pledged their support to our campaign, but the Labour Party refused to engage with our demands. Now that the Labour Party has announced its welfare policy we know that if they win an outright majority this election significant welfare reform would not be part of the political agenda.

“Despite all the rhetoric of kindness and compassion from the Prime Minister her Party is heading into the election without a commitment to lift people on the benefit out of poverty. COVID-19 is only going to put more strain on frontline Work and Income staff, with more people on jobseeker benefits needing food grants. Leaving core benefits below the poverty line during an economic crisis is irresponsible.

“The Labour Party is entrenching the toxic culture at Work and Income by not further lifting core benefits. The current jobseeker rate of $250 does not cover basic expenses. Even if one receives all the supplementary assistance such as accommodation supplement people are being pushed to Work and Income to access food grants just to survive.

“The COVID-19 Payment introduced by the Government showed us that it is possible to have income support that is individualised, allows people to cover basic costs and doesn’t have sanctions attached to it. The only thing getting in the way of overhauling our welfare system to reflect the values of the COVID-19 payment is political will.

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