Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) welcomes the Green Party campaign “to put the heart back into our social support system“. The campaign supports the need for a more supportive and compassionate welfare system, that ensures beneficiaries and their children are able to achieve an adequate standard of living – free from discrimination.
The also campaign amplifies the work of CPAG, which has been calling for comprehensive welfare reform alongside other organisations including Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) and the #WeAreBeneficiaries movement.
The Green’s policies include increasing the baseline amounts for benefits, changing the threshold for benefit reductions, and moving towards entitlements based on individual needs instead of having “blanket policies around starting new relationships and losing entitlements.”
“Benefit rates need to increase significantly if there is to be a substantial reduction in child poverty numbers,” says Associate Professor Mike O’Brien, CPAG’s Social Security spokesperson.
“Furthermore, the process for adjusting benefits needs to be changed so that benefits provide a standard of living that reflects the rest of the community.”
Like CPAG and others, the Greens are promoting welfare policy that is supportive as opposed to punitive, including recommendations to abolish sanctions that are applied to beneficiaries who may not be able to meet strict obligations, or who are not able to name the other parent on their application.
“Sanctions are having a serious effect on children,” says O’Brien.
“Changing the regulations and practice surrounding them is a matter of urgent priority and would have an immediate effect on improving the lives of those children and families in the most extreme circumstances.”
CPAG commends the Green’s recommendation to remove the discrimination from the Working for Families In-Work Tax Credit, which has failed as a work incentive and is harshly discriminatory, particularly against sole parents and Māori. CPAG has argued that current eligibility criteria locks out families who are the worst-off and including them in the payment would provide a significant relief from hardship for more than 140,000 children.
CPAG says that there needs to be a groundswell of public support for reform to encourage Government to adopt the critical changes needed.
“Such changes will ensure all children have the chance to thrive in Aotearoa, and that all who receive a welfare benefit can maintain a healthy life.
“We are calling on the Government to reform the welfare system so that it is fit for families in the 21st century and has set out 17 recommendations that could be actioned directly.”
For more information visit CPAG’s Welfare Fit For Families campaign page.