Religious and community groups seek liveable income for needy

Over 60 religious and community groups are asking Jacinda Ardern to address current benefit levels that are keeping people in poverty.

“During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, you acted quickly to set up the COVID income relief payment, which is nearly twice the amount of the usual jobseeker benefit.

“You showed us that you understand that current benefit levels are insufficient and lock families and children into poverty — an issue that affects all of us.

“Now, we are asking you to apply the same common sense approach to all income support”, the groups wrote in and open letter.

The religious and community groups are urging Ardern to lift inadequate welfare payments by Christmas.

“No matter who we are or where we live, we know that our wellbeing is interconnected with those around us. When everyone has what they need to look after themselves and fully participate in their communities, we all flourish, the groups say.

Right now, hundreds of thousands of children are constrained by poverty, despite parents’ best efforts and we all want every child in Aotearoa to experience a thriving and happy childhood, they say.

“This is a critical time in our history and we are concerned even more people will slip into entrenched poverty,” says the Salvation Army policy director, Ian Hutson.

Hutson says when people have to battle day-to-day to put food on the table and find the rent, the emotional initiative that is sucked up by the struggle to survive leaves people without the energy or hope to find work.

“People need enough income to stand up on so they can move on.”

Another signatory to the open letter is Mental Health Foundation’s chief executive Shaun Robinson. A living wage is critical to good mental health, he says.

“There is ample evidence that poverty, particularly as it impacts on children, has significant impacts on poor mental health.”

Many of Jacinda’s child poverty and children’s mental health goals could be met simply by raising benefits, he says.

“This is a very quick fix: put the money into making benefits liveable, especially for households with children and you will achieve many of your policy outcomes within months.”

The National Council of Women New Zealand’s president, Lisa Lawrence, says those on welfare are increasingly worse off.

“We would implore that the rates of benefits across the country are re-examined so that no child is left in material poverty,” she says.

Community volunteer and disability benefit recipient Stacey Ryan says this year’s $25 a week benefit boost isn’t enough.

“Because of my illnesses and disabilities I can’t work anymore and an extra 25 dollars a week does not help me afford the medicines I need, let alone help me pay my rent, pay my bills and have my phone going.

“For the majority of people they need an extra 100 to 150 dollars a week – and that’s for a solo person,” she says.

Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has declined to comment on benefit adequacy.


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand.

Tags: , , , ,