Should have covered this earlier – extracts from Gordon Campbell on the budget:
From the outset, the slogan for yesterday’s Budget – “The Plan Is Working” – begged to be mocked. There’s actually a plan for the national economy? Who knew? And its been working for whom, exactly? Not for families in poverty, clearly. Supposedly, the social hardship package is the centre-piece of Budget 2015. Yet how could Finance Minister Bill English claim with a straight face to be doing anything significant about poverty – or income inequality – without making any changes to the economic settings that keep on generating it ?
In reality, Budget 2015 contained no sustainable plan to transform the lives of the poor. What we got was a sop, a stunt paid for in part by the continued, chronic underfunding of areas such as health and education which – newsflash – also affect the quality of life of those living in poverty. Core benefits for families with children will go up by a headline figure of $25 a week, while fiddling with tax credits will deliver about $12 to low income families in paid employment.
That headline figure for the increase in benefits was misleading. No-one will get an extra $25. The real figure is a maximum of $23 in the hand when the simultaneous (and miserly) deductions in income-related rents and other forms of assistance is factored in. By late last night, Work and Income were clarifying that these abatement rules meant that many beneficiary families would receive an increase more in the nature of $18, and some families would receive nothing extra at all. Moreover, the figures seemed plucked out of the air, rather than based on any research into existing levels of need. Plus, the relief is deemed to be so urgently needed it won’t actually arrive for another eleven months.
To sum up : the boost to benefits will occur in the absence of any structural change to the policies generating poverty. The minimal increases will do little to make poverty bearable, and some of the fish-hooks will make life worse for some households. The chief purpose has been an entirely political one : by raising core benefits, the National-led government has managed to trump Labour on its own social policy ground ! Whoopee. That may be great political strategising, but the crumbs from the table – which have been paid for largely by starving other key areas of social policy – will not lift any families at all out of poverty.
There’s much more, on inadequate health funding and the absence of jobs – go read the whole thing on Scoop.