Activists and researchers are warning toxic stress, food insecurity and isolation are set to rise for many families in poverty almost immediately, as their weekly incomes reduce by $63 from tomorrow [Thurs 1 Oct].
"The Winter Energy Payment ends this week for those receiving benefits and NZ Superannuation, and because the payment was doubled this year for COVID-19 relief, the income drop is particularly sharp," says Child Poverty Action Group researcher Janet McAllister. "Yet the financial uncertainty of COVID continues, and incomes for whānau and families on benefits were already too low even before COVID.
"Furthermore, our research
shows core entitlements for many families on benefits often fall well below primary poverty lines even when they include the COVID-relief doubled Winter Energy Payment."
Last month CPAG and Auckland Action Against Poverty urged the government to allow all low-income families with children access to all family support tax credits, and to extend the Winter Energy Payment period until welfare reform. Their call was echoed by organisations such as ActionStation and the Auckland Women’s Centre, whose single mums group has been worried about the end of the Winter Energy Payment period for months.
"We are disappointed that when Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni was asked by Green party co-leader Marama Davidson in the House last month about our recommendation, the Minister refused to lift or even keep current family income levels as a stop-gap measure," says McAllister. "Reducing incomes for families on benefits will entrench poverty at the deepest end, and this does not bode well for future child wellbeing.
"Each day that goes by without bold action makes the poverty problem worse."
Single parent Sarah Melvin says reducing her income by $63 a week will leave her with "a good chunk of bugger-all… for food and things, after rent, power, gas, water, kindy."