About that Winter Energy Payment ...

Why some struggling families miss out on the Government's Winter Energy Payment over winter, while many over-65s not in need get it automatically? Mary Mowbray, long-time member of Child Poverty Action Groups Wellington contingent says there is definitely a proportion of those who are "not in need."

This week is the last full amount of the winter energy payment to all those receiving a main government benefit. Controversially the recipients included New Zealand Superannuitants*.

Early on the disapproving commentary went that this payment goes to some in the richest group in New Zealand. Having worked on income research, I was sceptical of the claim that many over-65s have substantial income additional to NZ Super. This was not the case around 2000 when I last looked at the figures. So I went to the Ministry of Social Development incomes report site and looked for the information.

It turns out that 40% of our over-65s community have less than $100 per week from other sources, the next 20% have on average around 70% of their income from NZ Super and other government transfers such as Veterans’ Pension.

But around 40% of older New Zealanders receive more than half their income from sources other than NZ Super or the Veterans' Pension. This group with substantial extra income has grown in size in recent years (15% in 1998, 30% in 2009), mainly due to increasing non-government income for those in ‘younger’ couple economic family units (aged 66-75), and especially higher income from employment. At the other extreme, among single superannuitants, 40% have no other income than their pensions.

So while the picture is mixed, but there must be plenty of people receiving NZ Super who are financially comfortable. Even those with a modicum of income extra to the NZ Super manage to budget for winter heating let alone those who have double that amount coming in regularly.

So now that winter is over - we hope! -  do look at your financial details and see if the special payment delivered you some surplus. Many groups helping those who are in serious need could do with a donation (some of which may be rebated) and would be really grateful for your good-hearted contribution.

*On 4 July, Duncan Grieve of the Bulletin wrote:

“...  a whole bunch of New Zealanders who really need the help started receiving a little extra to help pay their power bills. They didn’t have to apply for it – just by virtue of being on a range of benefits or allowances, a little extra money started appearing in their accounts.

..... Yet at the same time, another group of New Zealanders will also start receiving the payment. And while some amongst that group really will need the help, many, probably the majority, do not. In fact, taken in aggregate, this group is easily the most wealthy of us all.”

This was followed by a graph showing that the 65+ age group had an average net worth of $375,000, and comments about the reasons being universal age benefit plus house inflation.