Punitive move divides the needy


The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) is calling on the Government to not further divide the needy.

The call comes in response to the Government’s Income Relief Payment making full-time workers who lost their job because of the economic impact of COVID-19 eligible for tax-free weekly payments of almost $500 a week for a period of 12 weeks.

CPAG criticises the policy saying the divisive move comes at a time when the country is united in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

CPAG says the recovery is a team effort, one “not marked by unfair distinctions that only deem some to be deserving of help.”

It is calling the move towards the needy as “punitive.”

Susan St John, CPAG’s economic spokesperson, says this new policy makes it light years better than the Jobseeker benefit for which many do not currently qualify because they have an earning partner.

“Modern relationships are complex and the current rules regarding benefits are based on archaic notions of the relationship and assumes what is expected from partners. But these assumptions are based on old ideas that do not apply today, if they ever did, and which have forced many into unacceptable poverty.”

The Māori Party co-leader, Te Tai Hauāuru, agrees and is similarly asking the Labour-led government to lift the incomes of all needy, not just those out of work from COVID-19.

Saying the Party is happy that those who recently lost their job will be guaranteed a liveable income for 12 weeks, but points out they are no more deserving than anyone else who is out of work.

“Our economy has been structured in such a way that many Māori were already locked out of employment before the pandemic – Māori unemployment has consistently been double the rate of Pākehā unemployment”, the Māori Party says in a statement.

They say there is no justification for the recently redundant to receive double the income support of those made redundant before the pandemic.

“We are entering what is likely to be a major recession – all people needed guaranteed secure incomes, and not just for 12 weeks.”

“It’s likely many recently unemployed people won’t be able to find new work within 12 weeks,” the Party says.

Welcoming the income relief payments Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) say that all unemployed deserve liveable incomes.

AAAP says the government’s move is a slap in the face of hundreds of thousands of people on a benefit who rely on food grants to survive and is accusing the government of creating a two-tier welfare system.

“People who have been in work have suffered a very sharp income drop, and that obviously that’s very unexpected because of Covid-19 … It’s a recognition that we need to cushion the blow for people,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson said.


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