Protect children - make family assistance fairer in a precarious work environment

New Zealand's family assistance package is poorly designed to meet the needs of families facing an increasingly casualised paid work environment, says Child Poverty Action Group.

Radio New Zealand National reported this morning that workers on low hour contracts are missing out on benefits they're entitled to, including the In Work Tax Credit for their children, because of the red tape they encounter when they don't work regular hours. 

CPAG economics spokesperson Susan St John says, "New Zealand's discriminatory and inflexible family assistance package fails to protect children in a casualised work environment, where parents' work hours are uncertain." 

The IWTC is a payment to help with the costs of children but is withheld from parents who receive benefit income, or do not work a minimum number of hours per week.

Families may lose the IWTC when they lose work due to illness or a natural disaster like the Canterbury earthquakes, or in a recession, even though they do not go on a benefit. 

Susan St John says, "Children should not be the casualties due to circumstances beyond their control, in the name of incentivising work.  The government must acknowledge that the IWTC is a payment for children.   It is part of the Working for Families weekly amount paid to the caregiver in a low income working family and should be a stable source of income to meet the needs of children.  

"The unrealistic rigid hours-worked requirements must go as a first step in badly-needed reforms to reduce child poverty."