The wellbeing budget has failed to introduce additional meaningful and immediate measures to improve the wellbeing of beneficiaries’ lives.
“The Government’s wellbeing budget showed a lack of new initiatives to address rising poverty and inequality, with the key welfare announcement being a legislative change which would index benefit levels to the average wage”, says Ricardo Menendez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator.
“The indexing of benefit levels to the average wage is a tokenistic move by Government that does not address the calls by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group for an urgent increase of core benefit levels of up to 47%. The projected increase in beneficiaries’ incomes as a result of the indexing changes will only result in an additional $27-$47 a week by 2023, which is far less than what the WEAG recommended.
“The net change of incomes as a result of indexing benefits to the average wage is small increase when the costs of living continue to increase, and the housing crisis shows little signs of easing for those on low-income.
“We are concerned there’s no additional funding for the Housing and Urban Development (HUD), or new money for public housing. With the social housing waiting list continues to reach record levels, there is a desperate need for additional funding for more state homes for the people on the waiting list. With no additional funding going to Kiwibuild either it’s difficult to see how the Government plans to tackle the housing crisis.
“The only major announcement for public housing had come before budget day, with the pre-budget announcement of $197 million for the Housing First Initiative for the next four years to fund 1,044 new places for long-term homeless people. With only 6,400 state homes planned for the next four years and over 11,000 families currently waiting for a state home we expected additional funding to match the current need of state housing.
“The ability for the Government to deliver true wellbeing for low income families is hampered by its Budget Responsibility Rules. Implementing the full Welfare Expert Advisory Group recommendations would have taken the Government’s debt and expenditure beyond what it currently allows itself, hindering the pace the Government can reduce poverty by.
“The Government needs to introduce a wider range of welfare reforms and invest on public housing if it is serious about the wellbeing of low-income people. This budget, unfortunately, failed to deliver on these two crucial issues.