Government: Erase Christmas woes with more inclusive policies


Christmas is a time for celebrating family values, and Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says it's time to test the Government's values by asking them to provide better support for those in need, and make Working for Families more inclusive.

Government should not be putting pressure on charities such as the Salvation Army and the Auckland City Mission to up their game by handing out more food parcels to needy families than ever before. As it is, they are suffering the effects of overwhelming demand.

During the 2015 Christmas period the Auckland City Mission "experienced a record-breaking level of need" and if numbers so far this year are anything to go by, they can expect even greater need this Christmas.

The Salvation Army has predicted that 1000 more food parcels will be needed than this time last year, and have launched their 2016 Christmas appeal early to ensure they can respond to this need.

Salvation Army head of social services major Pam Waugh said that, "Often all families needed was an unexpected bill for the car or doctors and suddenly there was no money for food."

Waugh said that a food parcel could free up about $70 for a family.

It is ironic really, that many of the families needing food parcel assistance miss out on $72.50 a week of the In-Work Tax Credit (IWTC) because their children are excluded.

Both organisations agree that the increasing housing prices have created a burden that is more than families can bear, and they are seeing many new faces through their doors. But they are only able to respond to the crisis, and cannot solve the overarching issue of poverty. What is needed urgently is an effective, long-term solution by Government policy rather than expecting charities to respond to ever increasing need.

CPAG says that if the Government were to open up the $72.50 In-Work Tax Credit to low-income families irrespective of the number of hours they work, this level of crisis could be reduced. It is a matter of values, of fairness and inclusion.

Ensuring all low-income families have access to the $72.50 will mean a significant improvement for the lives of many children in New Zealand.It will give them an opportunity for joy at Christmas, instead of a long wait the food parcel queue.