Welcome to Poverty watch, a weekly update on the National government’s lack of response to the urgent and growing issue of poverty in NZ. A lot of background issues and links are set out in Poverty Watch one two and three.
This week, it’s obvious really but it still needs saying, who bears the brunt of the Nats’ diversionary beneficiary bashing tactics? Kids, of course:
Children bear brunt of welfare changes – poverty group
New Zealand’s most vulnerable children are bearing the brunt of the Government’s punitive sanctions against beneficiaries, with sole parents making up the majority of those with children having their benefits cut, says Child Poverty Action Group.
Figures obtained by the lobby group under the Official Information Act show since the Government’s first tranche of welfare reforms were introduced in July 2010, 377 beneficiaries with dependent children faced sanctions on their benefits.
… A breakdown of the figures from Work and Income show that from July 2010 until August this year, 234 solo parents had their benefits cut, along with 129 on the unemployment benefit who had dependent children. A further eight on unemployment benefit training and seven on the sickness benefit with dependent children also faced sanctions. In 84 cases the youngest child in the family was younger than five and in 63 cases the benefit cut lasted more than four weeks.
Child Poverty Action Group’s director Michael O’Brien said benefit levels provided a subsistence level of support at best. “These children almost certainly lead very impoverished lives already. We know poverty can have life-long consequences on children’s health, education and well-being.” The Government had failed to consider the needs of vulnerable children in its “ideological zeal for work at any cost”, he said.
You may recall form last week’s Poverty Watch that Peter Dunne betrayed his election promise to “actively support policy measures that reduce income inequality” by voting down Metiria Turei’s Income Tax (Universalisation of In-work Tax Credit) Amendment Bill. On the defensive he blustered his usual waffly excuses. And now he’s been called on it:
Child Poverty Action challenges Peter Dunne to solve child poverty
Child Poverty Action Group says an obvious way to alleviate child poverty is to give more family assistance to families on benefits, many of whom cannot provide adequately for the needs of their children. A cost effective and fair way to do this would be to add the In Work tax credit to the Family tax credit so that all children in low income families are treated the same.
But this simple, cost effective solution was rejected by Peter Dunne last week. His vote determined the outcome of the Green’s Income Tax (Universalisation of In-Work Tax Credit) Amendment Bill. His lack of support meant the bill was defeated 61 to 60.
In explaining his position, Peter Dunne said on Morning Report (7th November) ‘there are other ways’ of dealing with child and family poverty.
CPAG spokesperson Associate Professor St John said, “That places a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of Peter Dunne. He belongs to a party that is supposed to care about families and pledged during the last election to fight for a reduction in inequality. It is time for him to show us the concrete steps he would take, rather than invoking imaginary packages of assistance from WINZ that have no substance.” …
“We are particularly critical of Mr Dunne’s choice to support a narrow view of the In Work Tax Credit as a work incentive, ignoring its central purpose to alleviate child poverty. What, Mr Dunne, is the way forward to reduce child poverty?”
OK Peter – the responsibility is yours. Time to front up.
Poverty Watch always ends with the following list, the National government’s response to rising poverty in NZ:
• National has not yet set any target for reducing poverty