Income support changes fall short of what struggling households need - new research from Fairer Future collaboration

Figures released today by the Fairer Future collaboration show that increases to benefits on 1 April will still leave families locked in poverty. Spokesperson for the Fairer Future collaboration, Brooke Stanley Pao, says it’s time for the Government to "level up" income support so everyone can live with dignity.

"Our update of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s modelling on what level of income is needed to meet basic costs shows the majority of people receiving income support still don’t have nearly enough to live on, even after the April 2022 income support increases come into effect," says Max Harris, also a spokesperson for Fairer Future. "It’s imperative that the Government levels up income support to catch up with the rising cost of living."

The work compared WEAG family cost estimates, inflation-adjusted for 2022, to Government estimates of April 2022 benefit entitlements, and found some of the country’s worst-off families will face shortfalls of up to $300 a week.

"The much-vaunted income support increases will be too little, too late for most people," says Brooke Stanley Pao. "This was predicted, and it’s our most vulnerable families and communities who will continue to suffer, at high risk of harm and exploitation, because of this inadequacy."

In mid-2022, a couple with three children receiving Jobseeker will need around $300 extra a week to meet their total costs, including children’s sport and contingency for unexpected bills. This means they’re missing well over a quarter of the income they need to be able to live with dignity and participate in their communities. To meet just their core costs, including everyday necessities such as rent, food and power, they still need an additional $165 a week.

A sole parent with three children will require around $240 more a week to meet total costs (almost a quarter - 23% - more income), or an additional $111 a week solely to meet core costs. A single person receiving Jobseeker and sharing a house will need about $90 more every week (or 22% additional income) to cover all costs, and an additional $50 a week to cover core costs. Without average debt repayments included in the calculations, only one of the 13 households is able to cover their total costs: the 1-parent, 1-child family receiving Best Start (additional support for children under 3) and sharing a house. If low repayments of debt were included in the modelling, none of the 13 model households in the updated research would be able to meet their total costs.

"These shocking shortfalls are stopping people from living a decent life - but they are not inevitable and most people in New Zealand recognise we have a responsibility to lift families out of poverty," says Max Harris."The Best Start support shows the Government can ensure welfare reaches income adequacy." Brooke Stanley Pao adds: "We urge the Government to do the right thing and ensure liveable support for all."