What will it take to ensure that all children living in Aotearoa-New Zealand have all their wellbeing needs met?
Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says when families fall on hard times, they still need to have enough money to meet all their basic needs. Sufficient income will go a long way toward ensuring the best outcomes for children’s wellbeing. Woefully however, New Zealand’s welfare system has suffered the impacts of punitive policy changes over three decades that have contributed to the deeply entrenched poverty we see today.
Today CPAG is launching its campaign, “Welfare Fit for Families”, asking for Government to reform the welfare system so that it is better equipped to provide for the unique needs of all families and individuals when they may need social assistance, so they can continue to thrive.
“For families on benefits, there are barriers that prevent them accessing their correct entitlements, and we remain concerned about sanctions that compromise children’s wellbeing by reducing family income,” says Mike O’Brien, CPAG social security spokesperson.
“Welfare benefits and tax credits have followed a pattern of falling far behind the rising costs of living and housing. A good welfare system should support everyone who needs it to have a good standard of living, and to have the means to do well.”
CPAG welcomes 2018 developments such as the Families Package and the Government’s acknowledgement – in the form of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group – that great effort is required to reverse nearly two generations of poverty entrenchment. A Child Poverty Reduction Bill in the House, as well as increases to Working for Families and other supplements are all developments to be celebrated, and will make a difference for some. But for many other families, such as those who have very low incomes, more significant improvements are needed, including long-term policies to ensure that welfare benefits and tax credits do not follow a pattern of falling far behind the rising costs of living and housing.
CPAG’s Welfare Fit for Families campaign asks the Government to consider policy changes that will improve income adequacy, including:
– Substantially improving core benefits;
– Removing harsh sanctions that impact on children;
– Ensuring that all benefits and all part of Working for Families (WFF) are indexed annually to prices and wages;
– Removing the hours of paid work criteria from the WFF In-Work Tax Credit and extending it to all low-income families;
– Treating adults in the benefit system as individuals without penalising them for being in a partnership;
– Focusing on what will give children better outcomes and less on moving their carers into paid work; and
– Ensuring that applicants receive all the assistance to which they are entitled.