The National Party has come out in support of the Labour’s Child Poverty Reduction Bill, which is supposed to help the Government measure poverty better by setting measures that the Government would be held accountable to over a period of years. The National Party’s support of the bill came about after changes were made to its original content, including entrenching the failed Social Investment approach introduced by the previous Government, which enables it to collect data from various Government agencies to identify and measure the cost people in poverty were having the system. Auckland Action Against Poverty is calling for the Government to drop the National Party’s approach of stigmatizing people on the benefit by seeing them as a burden to the economy.
“We are disappointed the Labour Party conceded to continuing the stigmatization of people on the benefit, through the Social Investment Approach, for the sake of getting National on board, when they did not need its support to get the bill across”, says Ricardo Menendez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator.
“The Social Investment approach to data gathering, targeting families with budgeting advice, education on parenting, welfare conditions and requirements has failed to work to reduce poverty levels. All these targeted approaches do is incur additional stresses on people who simply don’t have enough income to get by.
“The Child Poverty Reduction Bill measurements won’t mean anything to people struggling to get by. It does not force the Government to increase benefit levels, wages, or reduce the cost of rent. Instead, it will continue seeing people in poverty as a cost to the economy instead of a product of failed Government policies to address growing inequality.
“While the Bill may provide new ways of measuring poverty levels, it is not as though the Government did not have access to figures which already showed that poverty levels were at a crisis point. The Government already knows that record numbers are needing access to food grants from Work and Income, growing numbers are on the social housing waiting list and that median rent prices are exceeding wages.
“A Government committed to ending poverty would instead be focusing its energies towards removing benefit sanctions, introducing rent controls, and improving the public housing sector. The Labour-led Government has so far not committed to any meaningful legislative changes that will address poverty levels.
“Entrenching the Social Investment Approach of the previous Government, without addressing the immediate material needs of people in poverty, signals the Labour Party’s approach to poverty reduction is a continuation of the previous Government attack on the poor.”