The Green Party launched a renewed call for welfare reform today, acknowledging that all benefit sanctions need removing and benefit levels substantially increased, which are currently below the poverty line. Auckland Action Against Poverty welcomes the Greens call for genuinely transformative reform of the New Zealand welfare system, and challenges Labour and New Zealand First to support its policy.
“We are encouraged by the Green Party’s renewed commitment to addressing real issues faced by people in poverty. Groups such as AAAP and CPAG have been campaigning on removing punitive sanctions and raising benefit levels for years, and we acknowledge the importance of having political parties willing to put forward legislation to make these calls a reality”, says Ricardo Menendez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator.
“The Greens’ welfare policy includes the bare minimum changes that need to be made if the Government is genuinely committed to addressing our growing poverty levels. The challenge is now for the Labour Party and New Zealand First to support these policy points, and implement them at the earliest opportunity.
“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, during her speech at the United Nations, proudly proclaimed to the world stage that New Zealand was championing kindness in the face of divisive politics. Her Government should honour those words by putting an end to the cruel and punitive culture at Work and Income.
“Despite it being an election promise by the Labour Party, the Government has yet to remove benefit sanctions on single mothers, which takes $28 a week per child whose father is not named on the birth certificate. There is no evidence this sanction achieves its objective to encourage fathers to provide child support. Instead, it just leaves children and mothers without basic necessities, and the Government has chosen to keep it in place.
“There is a real urgency for genuine welfare reform in Aotearoa. The changes the Green Party is proposing simply can’t wait another term. With rent prices and the cost of basic necessities continuing to rise, record numbers of people are needing to go to Work and Income for assistance for food or emergency accommodation.
“Both the National Party and Labour Party have been complicit in dismantling our welfare system to one that punishes people for being poor. The Green Party’s call for overhauling the welfare system acknowledges the sustained attacks people on the benefit have endured over the past 40 years of neoliberal reforms.
“We will continue pressuring all political parties to ensure that the war on the poor by politicians ends once and for all”.