Budget 2018: Best opportunity to benefit all children
Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says Budget 2018 is an opportunity for the new Government to take further bold action for families and children affected by structural socio-economic disadvantage.
"A constant struggle is now embedded in the lives of beneficiary families," says Associate Professor Mike O’Brien, CPAG’s social security spokesperson.
Many families on low incomes have been driven into deeply entrenched poverty as wages and benefits have fallen further behind the costs of living. The Families Package will be of some long-needed help but it is not due until 1 July. Much of it will be a catch-up for the past decade of erosion of Working for Families (tax credits for children).
Housing costs, as a result of speculation and demand, have driven a crisis of unaffordability. While the Accommodation Supplement has been increased, rents have also soared.
"We hope to see an immediate removal of all sanctions for beneficiaries with children, a marked increase in all core benefits and a commitment by Government to index all benefits annually as we do for superannuitants," say’s O’Brien.
"We would also like to see beneficiaries able to earn substantially more extra income before there is any reduction in their benefit."
CPAG suggests an earning cap of $165 per individual is much more realistic.
"It is not just families with children on benefits - low-income working families are also struggling to meet their children’s basic needs, as their budgets have become even more tightly squeezed," says Associate Professor Susan St John, CPAG’s economics spokesperson.
"We know that there’s an improvement for working families come July 1, but we are asking Government to go further.
"We would like the Working for Families abatement rate reduced to the original rate of 20%. Working families need to see more reward for each extra dollar they earn," says St John.
CPAG would like to see all funding freezes lifted for community-based service providers and new money dedicated to ensuring they are able to help all who need them. The freeze on early childhood care and education spending should be lifted, and funding increased to levels that will ensure the provision of a quality education for all, and that teachers are all paid a decent wage. Improved funding for support workers in schools is imperative, so that all schools are able to access the extra help they need and that their support workers are paid a fair wage.
CPAG hopes children’s health needs will feature in Budget 2018 too. Long term strategies to improve the shocking dental health of low-income children are urgently needed.
"Health spending should be increased to ensure GP visits and prescriptions are free for all children until their 18th birthdays to reduce the rate at which children are hospitalised for preventable, poverty-related disease," says Professor Innes Asher, CPAG’s health spokesperson.
"Alongside this should be an effective housing strategy that ensures every child has a healthy home to live," says Professor Asher.
Frank Hogan, CPAG’s law and housing spokesperson, says that Government must spend substantially more on the social housing sector so that many more state and affordable homes are built to sustain a growing and aging population.
"Providing affordable finance to the social housing sector would be a great start, increasing the number of rent-to-buy options for low-income families," says Hogan.
"We also need to mitigate the risk of fast-rising rents, as a result of property speculation. It’s time that property wealth is taxed effectively and fairly."
CPAG will present its analysis of what the budget holds for children and families at nationwide Post-Budget events held in Auckland, Wellington (with the Wellington Public Health Association) and Christchurch throughout New Zealand on May 18 and in Nelson-Tasman and Whangarei (with Manaia Health PHO) on May 23. The analysis will be prepared by specialists from a range of disciplines, including, health, economics, social services, housing and education.
CPAG joins with families nationwide in asking that the new Government delivers hope for low-income families and their children in this budget.