Govt yet to fully implement a single key WEAG recommendation three years on: new research – Child Poverty Action Group

None of the 42 key recommendations of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) have been fully implemented almost three years after the report release, with 22 minimally or partially implemented, new research by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has found.

In February 2019, following consultation with over 3,000 New Zealanders, government-appointed WEAG experts recommended complete reform of the welfare system, providing 42 key recommendations and 126 detailed recommendations to inform this overhaul.

The Government’s vision – for a welfare system where people have an “adequate income and standard of living” – is not being realised, according to CPAG researchers and report co-authors Caitlin Neuwelt-Kearns and Professor Emeritus Innes Asher. In their second annual stocktake of implementation of WEAG’s recommendations, they found progress in improving the welfare system to be “slow, patchy and piecemeal”.

“If transformative welfare reform had been introduced as WEAG recommended, our communities would have been better equipped to withstand crises, including a pandemic,” says Professor Asher, who also served as a WEAG member. “Accelerating welfare reform would be an appropriate response to Covid-19 – but so far we have seen slow implementation progress, with no acceleration from last year.”

“An overly complex and unsupportive welfare system detracts from the ability of parents and caregivers to be mentally and emotionally present for their children,” says Neuwelt-Kearns. “At this pace, it could take decades to implement welfare reform as envisioned by WEAG, and such delays are potentially harming children.”

The number of children living in benefit-receiving households has risen by over 15% in the last two years to 208,000 children, roughly one in every five in Aotearoa. Yet the social security system still provides inadequate income and other support for these families, who are among the most likely to live in entrenched poverty.

“We’ve seen some positive developments in the last year, including the Budget 2021 core benefit increases – a welcome step towards income adequacy. However our findings suggest that for most people – including couples with children, and all adults without children – April 2022 rates won’t meet wage-adjusted WEAG rates.”

Furthermore, family incomes are made up of more than just core benefits, and WEAG recommended a “comprehensive package of increases”, including significant increases to Working for Families tax credits which haven’t been delivered.

“The Government has signalled a review of Working for Families, but as yet we have no timeline or details,” says Professor Asher. “Children can’t live on promises.”

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“In 2019, WEAG described this comprehensive package of increases as a ‘minimum, immediate first step’, yet families have lost out on crucial income over the last few years due to slow Government roll-out. A couple on Supported Living Payment with one child will have been denied over $25,000 by April next year, because welfare reform was not implemented as quickly as WEAG recommended. These are significant sums that could have made a vital difference to family and whānau wellbeing, particularly during the pandemic.”

CPAG recommends the Government reforms the purpose and principles of the Social Security Act by the end of its current term, to ensure the foundations of the system reflect a commitment to improving wellbeing, and to uphold Te Tiriti. They also urge the Government to leverage the upcoming Working for Families review to deliver substantial income boosts to all families in a timely manner, particularly those in the deepest poverty.


  1. Little point in further describing the problems, WEAG successfully pointed most of those out and some easy remedies such as abatement thresholds. There has been a war on the poor since the advent of the NZ neo liberal state in 1984. The current Govt. has just switched to slightly smaller calibre ammunition. Ministers like Sepuloni are well captured by WINZ/MSD officials and managerialism.

    More reviews and investigations will not move the monetarists from their cruel obsession with punishing working class people–often displaced by macroeconomic decisions well beyond their control–like Roger Douglas swinging a wrecking ball through the provinces and mass manufacturing shutdowns.

    What is needed is community organisation and direct action in support of a political campaign. The 70 NGOs who wrote the “letter to Jacinda” last xmas need to become a formal bloc along with unions and Iwi groupings and push hard for a working class programme–including tracking ministers and protesting, occupying empty properties, and forming neighbourhood action committees.

    A programme leading to the 2023/26 Elections to put some fear into the neo liberal arseholes responsible for the sadistic punishment of vulnerable people–including the sick and variously abled!–could include the following…
    –Immediate implementation of all WEAG recommendations WHILE a transition to the following takes place…

    • WINZ/MSD to be retired, all future welfare payments to be via IRD. Top MSD managers to be forbidden from working in the public sector for x years.
    • Basic income of several hundreds per week paid to all citizens via IRD, higher income people to refund their payments as appropriate by taxation
    • A new special needs agency be set up to cater for people with health or family needs in addition to the Basic Income
    • Free Wifi nationwide to fix the digital divide
    • Fare Free public transport nationwide
    • Free Doctor AND Dental for all low income people

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