The latest Ministry of Social Development December 2018 quarterly report show that a record number of people have received hardship assistance from working and income, with an additional 40,000 hardship payments made between September and December 2018, compared to the previous quarter of the same year, totalling 385,000. Auckland Action Against Poverty is calling on the Government to increase baseline benefits to stop record numbers of people requiring hardship assistance to meet the basic costs of living.
“For the first time in over 5 years, food grants are now the largest expense from the Ministry of Social Development in the hardship grant category, surpassing assistance to cover accommodation, medical costs and electricity. People’s incomes are simply not keeping up with the cost of rent and other basic expenses, prompting them to go to Work and Income for assistance”, says Ricardo Menendez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator.
“Despite successive reports by the Ministry of Social Development detailing how critical the level of hardship is, the Labour-led Government has not introduced any policy changes to how people access hardship grants nor the amount of food grants, nor increased the baseline benefit levels. The figures in the Ministry’s reports are a product of inaction by successive Governments to keep the costs of living affordable for low income families.
“Other organisations such as Auckland City Mission and the Salvation Army have reported that during the Christmas period, they saw a record demand for food parcels, and it was no different for Auckland Action Against Poverty. Our operations in Onehunga, Manurewa, Henderson and the rest of Auckland all saw increased demand for advocates to access hardship grants at Work and Income.
“We are calling on the Labour-led Government to at the very least immediately double baseline benefit levels, with a plan to match them to the living wage, in order to stop the steep rise of hardship grants, as well as build far more state homes than planned so that people can have access to affordable housing. Doubling baseline benefit levels would not even put them above the poverty line.
“Labour’s Wellbeing Budget and the Child Poverty Reduction Bill should act as a framework to start taking real leadership on poverty. While its Welfare Expert Advisory Group comes with a wider range of recommendations on welfare reform, the Government could start addressing our low benefit levels which are far below the poverty line. Ultimately, the cost of raising benefit levels is far lower than the long-term costs of having people without access to food, healthcare, and warm homes.”