The Delta outbreak in South Auckland – one of the heartiest suburbs in all of Tāmaki Makaurau (but with complex needs and support systems required to keep them well) has carried much of why we’ve continued to stay in lockdown for the time we have, and this takes a huge toll on all of us. “A lot of the research shows that existing inequities are exacerbated by Covid-19 and given Aotearoa is dealing with the Delta variant, it’s imperative that we look to protect all parts of our system by strengthening them” says coordinator of Auckland Action Against Poverty Brooke Pao Stanley.
This outbreak we’ve seen Work and Income continue to work from a low trust model for people on benefits and a high trust model for employers. We’ve seen the government invest money into Food Banks to deal with food insecurity and while we honour this mahi, it’s not on these organisations to fill in essential work gaps because the government won’t give people enough money to buy their own food. We’ve seen the outbreak hit emergency and transitional housing because we don’t have enough affordable housing for people on low incomes. Grant Robertson also said that he didn’t believe this lockdown would exacerbate inequality and it’s wild to hear him say that when all the research here and overseas points to it being the reality. It reflects this dangerous and violent ideology that people who are poor aren’t worth looking after.
We need a new system as part of the health response to Covid-19, because there are gaps that exist across all of it. Strengthening the welfare system by ensuring people have liveable incomes and access to secure and affordable housing would provide robust foundations for this, but we all need to work together to design ways that would keep us all well and thriving. This also needs to include the health of Papatūānuku, as our collective well-being is interconnected. If we can shut down our country for months at a time to protect the livelihood of our people, and pour billions of dollars into keeping people in paid employment then there’s no excuse to bring this same energy in addressing every other social ill we have in Aotearoa. There’s no excuse for us to change the whole system with the same thinking – in order to keep protecting the livelihood of everyone. The government has shown us that anything is possible, and so we should demand that a new system BE possible.