Anti-poverty groups to Labour: Election results mean no more excuses

Child Poverty Action Group, ActionStation and Auckland Action Against Poverty are calling on the new government to follow through quickly on their plan of raising income support so people receiving benefits are no longer locked into poverty.

"Labour has won this election by a landslide on a platform of kindness and looking after each other - and their pre-election plan specifically includes ensuring adequate incomes for those receiving benefits," says ActionStation Economic Fairness campaigner Ruby Powell.

"Before the election, Jacinda Ardern consistently said there's more work to be done to lift families out of poverty. Now she has the mandate to do it," continued Powell.

Labour’s plans, announced pre-election, include welfare reform goals of "income adequacy so families that depend on the benefit are not living in poverty, and a culture change within government departments to ensure all people are treated with respect".

Child Poverty Action Group spokesperson Janet McAllister describes those goals as "vital, sensible, and well within the new government’s power to achieve almost immediately".

"There’s no time to lose - our research this year shows benefit levels are currently so low they lock many children in the severest poverty," says Ms McAllister. "Current policies are intensifying our poverty crisis.

"Income adequacy and respect will go a long way to ensuring our welfare system upholds the mana and dignity of all New Zealanders," says Ms McAllister.

JobSeeker recipients have increased by over a third since COVID-19 hit, from 152,000 in March to 204,000 in September. The Winter Energy Payment - doubled this year due to COVID-19 - ended October 1. Those who lose their jobs can only receive the COVID Income Relief Payment for 12 weeks.

"Whānau desperately need more support," continued Powell. "Improving our welfare system so that it provides liveable incomes is essential to creating stability for everyone, most importantly our tamariki."

Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Brooke Fiafia says "It’s time for Labour to walk their talk on welfare reform.

"They have called on all of us as the team of five million to look after each other - and we all are. Now Labour must do their part to ensure everyone gets decent government support. Their election night result means they have no more excuses.

"We are also calling on Labour to end all benefit sanctions which are petty and counterproductive. And to ensure everyone has the right to form and keep supportive relationships, rather than being punished or excluded from income support because they’re dating, or have a partner," states Fiafia.

Fiafia says guaranteeing the current Covid Income Relief Payment level of at least $490 to all single people studying or not in full time employment - with additional payments to families with children - would lift most people out of poverty.