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The Current Welfare System Needs To Transform In Order To Prepare For Growing Unemployment

Unemployment figures for the last quarter released today show 37,000 people have lost their jobs due to Covid-19. Auckland Action Against Poverty says the current welfare system requires transforming to ensure that these people who are recently unemployed as well as people receiving benefits have enough to thrive.

“We are not surprised at the massive amount of people who are out of work due to this pandemic and were expecting this September quarter to be more reflective of what’s actually happening on the ground,” says Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator Brooke Stanley Pao.

The rise in unemployment has also impacted Māori, Pasifika, women and our young people the hardest.

“Being out of work often means that people are made to feel guilt and shame about not being able to pay for themselves and contribute to their families. This Labour government has the power to change our system from disempowering and dehumanising people to one that honours the right of everyone to have enough income for themselves and their families to live on, irrespective of their employment status.

“Auckland Action Against Poverty are seeing the impacts of this increased unemployment at Work & Income offices, as case managers are inundated with an increase in food grants and more people requiring support because of hardship.

“Many of the people we work with have been declined by the call centre, as case managers defer much of their work to them and these people simply don’t have the training or the same powers as case managers. There are long wait times when you’re on the phone, and often people are waiting for days to get a response for their immediate needs.

“The government needs to urgently increase benefits to liveable levels, which we saw happen when they responded with the Covid Income Relief Payment at almost double the rate of the jobseeker benefit. Liveable incomes for all as well as secure and safe public housing are human rights that should be available to everyone, not just to those of us who can afford it.”

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