No-one is immune from life’s challenges, and when situations arise that negatively impact on a parent’s ability to provide for their family, assurance that they can continue to lead a life that is free from harm associated with poverty is vital. Shamefully, New Zealand’s system of welfare is not responsive enough, nor does it provide adequate support for families when they have their greatest need. Many people experience barriers when they reach out for support, including unfair treatment by those who are meant to help them. Families in Aotearoa New Zealand need better than this. And it’s up to the Government to make changes to ensure they get it.
CPAG welcomes 2018 developments such as the Families Package and the Government’s acknowledgement – in the form of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group – that great effort is required to reverse nearly two generations of poverty entrenchment. A Child Poverty Reduction Bill in the house, as well as increases to Working for Families and other supplements are all developments to be celebrated, and will make a difference for some. But for many other families - those who have very low incomes - more significant improvements are needed, including long-term policies to ensure that welfare benefits and tax credits do not follow a pattern of falling far behind the rising costs of living and housing.
Children’s wellbeing should be at the heart of all policies, so that all their needs are met adequately, and their wellbeing is not compromised by policies that reduce family income. It is CPAG’s goal to help policy makers and politicians see the need to reform the welfare system towards one that is based on principles of compassion and caring, and the real needs of families, without stressful over-emphasis on work, and punitive, corrective methods.
Among CPAG's key recommendations to meet income adequacy, we hope the Government will consider the following Welfare Fit for Families campaign asks, to:
- Substantially improve core benefits;
- Remove harsh sanctions that impact on children;
- Ensure that all benefits and all part of Working for Families (WFF) are indexed annually to prices and wages;
- Remove the hours of paid work criteria from the WFF In-Work Tax Credit and extend it to all low-income families;
- Treat adults in the benefit system as individuals without penalising them for being in a partnership;
- Focus on what will give children better outcomes and less on moving their carers into paid work; and
- Ensure that applicants receive all the assistance to which they are entitled.