‘Children cannot wait’: Government slammed for ‘unjustifiably slow’ welfare reform

child poverty

Child advocates are slamming the Government for its “unjustifiably slow” action on welfare reform, with a new report finding just four of 126 recommendations have been fully implemented.

And it found none the 42 key recommendations made by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group early last year have been achieved almost two years later.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) said “urgent systemic transformation” was needed for the Government to fulfil its promise of welfare overhaul and urged it to do more than “incremental tweaks”.

The group today released an audit of how the recommendations made by the advisory group in February 2019 had been implemented and found it had delivered “remarkably little”.

“Children cannot wait for more resources, as their minds, emotions, bodies are constantly developing and are often permanently adversely affected by toxic stress and lack of essentials,” the report said.

“Our inadequate and ineffective welfare system continues to entrench poverty for children.

“The stress for these children and families not only has immediate adverse impacts for their wellbeing but has lasting effects on their lives and society; downstream costs in areas of health, education and justice alone are huge.”

The stocktake found four of the 126 detailed recommendations had been fully achieved, seven of the 42 key recommendations had been adopted with a further 12 “minimally” implemented.

And there was no evidence of any implementation at all for more than half (23).

The 11-person panel of academics, social advocates, economists and business leaders was appointed in 2018 and tasked with conducting a wide-ranging review of the welfare system.

After the advisory group recommended an extra $5.2 billion a year for social welfare, with an immediate increase in main benefits ranging from 17 to 47 per cent. At the time Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said it could take upwards of 10 years to achieve and embed.

But the report’s authors, Innes Asher, who served on the Welfare Expert Advisory Group, and Caitlin Neuwelt-Kearns, said a 10-year timeframe for welfare reform was “unreasonable and inappropriate” given the scale of urgent need.

And there appeared to be “little urgency” in the last government’s approach, they said.

“There is an immediate severe need, and children cannot wait.”

CPAG was among the 53 organisations which penned an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urging her to raise benefits by Christmas but she ruled it out. Continue reading

Additional reading

News category: Analysis and Comment.

Tags: ,