Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) will this Friday, 2 September, table a discussion of the biggest issue facing low-income families in New Zealand today – the Government’s “social investment approach” to welfare reform. CPAG’s concern is that the approach fails to support families into better outcomes in the present, nor will improve them in the foreseeable future.
Since 2012 the Government has claimed its success by announcing the reduced numbers on welfare benefits. But there is no gauge of whether the financial position or the wellbeing of these families has improved. Have they moved into paid employment, or have they been sanctioned and lost their financial support? The increasing demand for food parcels from social services suggests that improvement in the conditions for these families is the least likely outcome.
CPAG’s annual Social Security Summit Investing in Children, is dedicated to considering solutions to the problem – that the “social investment approach” does not provide adequately for children in New Zealand. Rather, it is doing them a great deal of harm, by failing to address key needs and the root causes of poverty.
Guest speakers who are experts in their fields, including Dr Bill Rosenberg, Economist and Policy Director at the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, will look at alternative approaches that are genuinely child-centred.
According to Rosenberg, “A ‘social investment approach’ is attractive only if it improves our future welfare or makes future financial savings by spending now. However the approach used by the Ministry of Social Development fails to do that in a number of ways.
“Far from being an investment approach to social welfare, it focuses on costs to the Government, fails to take account of the benefit to people who receive its help, and fails to take into account full economic benefits and costs. It makes invalid assumptions about outcomes for beneficiaries – such as that they all get jobs when they leave the benefit and that the quality of those jobs makes families better off.
“In its current form, many families are being harmed and it is failing to give enough help to people who lose their jobs in firm closures and restructuring. It is little more than a recipe for reducing government expenditure. To make a true investment approach work, all the factors need to be weighed up. Some factors cannot be easily quantified – such as the benefits of security to children, and parents who have quality time to spend with them. But if we want an improved social system, rather than just a cheaper system, it is vital to include them.”
CPAG says it’s time that our Government carefully considered the risks it is imposing on families and works more closely with organisations dedicated to better outcomes for children. A more informed and inclusive approach to social welfare will see our children thrive. We can do much better for our children and we must.
“A proper approach to investing in children needs to ensure that all children get the best possible opportunities. It needs to start with a clear plan to reduce poverty and build on this in ensuring that all children have a full life. We cannot afford not to invest in New Zealand’s children,” says Associate Professor Mike O’Brien, CPAG social security spokesperson..
To be a part of the caucus for Investing in Children, visit CPAG’s website and register now.