The Labour led Government budget failed to deliver any meaningful changes to sole parents receiving a benefit. Their incomes will remain at poverty levels, and many will continue facing punitive sanctions. Given Labour has previously agreed to remove Section 70A sanctions for people receiving a benefit, we were disappointed that no changes on welfare came about in today’s announcement.
“Aiming for a budget surplus at a time when inequality levels are at their worst since World War II is not responsible governing. Withholding money from our poorest communities and core public services doesn’t align with a Government that claims to be pulling out all the stops to end homelessness and child poverty”, says Ricardo Menendez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator.
“Minister Carmel Sepuloni, in several interviews in the lead up to the Budget, argued that it was unlikely there would be be enough money this Budget to deliver the much needed—and promised—change to people on benefits. Removing Section 70A would have cost $25m a year. When the Government says there’s not enough money for solo parents, but they are spending $100m on the America’s Cup we know their priorities don’t lie with our poorest.”
“The Government could issue a directive to Work and Income workers to assume that solo parents’ motivations for not naming the father in the birth certificate are reasonable. It would be that simple. Additionally, a directive to the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development to pay a non-recoverable grant to all sole parents subject to a Section 70A sanction. The amount of such a grant would be the equivalent amount currently being taken from sole parents by means of the Section 70A sanction.
“The Ministry of Social Development was not prioritised this Budget either, with other Ministries—such as Police—getting more funding for initiatives. The Ministry of Social Development’s initiative funding will remain at around $50m over the next 5 years, whereas the Police’s funding for initiatives will be more than double that in 5 years, at $120m.
“In his Budget Speech, Grant Robertson said that he wanted to focus on reducing the prison population. Increasing Police numbers, while keeping people with benefits in poverty and maintaining benefit sanctions will do the complete opposite. In order to reduce prison numbers, the Government ought to put its funding towards ending poverty, not towards more police. This budget aims to further criminalise New Zealand’s poorest.”
“Ultimately, this Budget continues the neoliberal policies of the past decades, where reaching a surplus is prioritised over making the necessary changes to end poverty. A surplus will mean little to the 13,000 solo parents who struggle to feed their children because they continue to be penalised $28 per week per child for not having named the father of their child in the birth certificate.”