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Collaborative video project will amplify the voices of welfare recipients

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and We Are Beneficiaries have teamed up to amplify the voices of those who have experienced first hand that Aotearoa’s current system of welfare is not always the supportive safety net that it was built to be. 

Following the release of Welfare for Wellbeing, a report by ActionStation produced in collaboration with CPAG, which collated the responses of 267 people in Aotearoa who contributed their perspectives, insights and experiences of the welfare system, CPAG and We Are Beneficiaries are launching an online video series as part of the Welfare Fit for Families campaign.

Through a series of interviews, presented in animations by We Are Beneficiaries founder Sam Orchard, we offer an insight into the real experiences of people who have been on a benefit, who have added responsibilities of helping and caring for others.

“It’s no easy feat to survive and raise children when you have little in the way of resources, and Tim, Wikitoria, Whaiora and Caroline are all resilient, determined, capable and participating citizens. But throughout their experiences of being on a benefit, they have struggled far more than any one should have to. And tragically they are not alone in their struggles - this is a common experience for benefit recipients in Aotearoa,” says We Are Beneficiaries' Sam Orchard.

Associate Professor Mike O’Brien, CPAG spokesperson, says, “Understanding people’s lived experiences of poverty and the welfare system is critical to seeing  the Government’s vision for “a welfare system … that ensures people have an adequate income and standard of living, [and] are treated with, and can live in dignity and are able to participate meaningfully in their communities” through to fruition.”

“Moreover, it is important to wider Aotearoa to understand and have empathy for the plight of those who are doing it toughest,” says O’Brien.

“We need to work together to change the narrative about people on benefits and the time to dispel the myth that people in poverty simply make 'bad choices', or are ‘lazy’, or ‘waste money’ is long overdue,” says Jeni Cartwright, CPAG spokesperson.

“Our system of welfare has created an environment in which people on benefits have reduced capacity to make any choices that help them to get ahead in life, because they can never stay on top of their current outgoings, and are forced into debt and out of their homes. Homelessness among children and families has become rife, and it’s due to a lack of finances and increased housing costs, not ‘bad choices’.”

“It’s time for real change, so that every child, young person and adult alike can thrive.”

As part of the campaign to have Welfare Fit for Families, CPAG promotes 17 concrete and practical recommendations to aid in achieving the Government’s vision.

Alongside removing the hours of work criteria from the Working for Families In-Work Tax Credit, and paying it to all low-income families, CPAG’s recommendations also include:

  • Removing sanctions;
  • Removing the financial penalty for people on benefits who are in a relationship;
  • Improving access to child support for parents who receive a benefit; and
  • Providing beneficiaries the opportunity to retain more of their benefit income when working part-time or when entering a new relationship.

Hear more about the experiences of Tim, Wikitoria, Whaiora and Caroline - visit CPAG’s Facebook page to see the first in the series of six videos online now!

Read ActionStation’s full crowd-sourced report on lived experiences of the welfare system online at www.welfareforwellbeing.org and sign the public petition asking the Government to adopt the reforms recommended by the report.