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Poverty Watch 12

Written By: - Date published: 8:36 am, November 17th, 2012 - 11 comments
Categories: national, poverty - Tags:

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.

Even in purely economic terms it’s short term stupid thinking at its worst.

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
• ?


11 comments on “Poverty Watch 12”

  1. Dr Terry 1

    To put it quite bluntly, Dunne (in particular) and National as an entity effectively voted IN FAVOUR of keeping little children in poverty (sometimes meaning starvation) – after all, it will save money for the government. This is a crime against our most precious and vulnerable citizens. Yet ever so many of those “nice people” (who quite likely attend their churches) continue to support such a ruling body.

    • Rogue Trooper 1.1

      I been witness recently to a general focus on “material prosperity” and an abandoning of the “two greatest commandments” across much of what passes for “christianity” in Aotearoa New Zealand Doc.
      It appears the West has lost it’s way; maybe even the typical “selective” glance at a work like

      “Living the Word, Resisting the World: The Life and Thought of Jacques Ellul.” Paternoster Press, 2002
      might help turn their gaze in the right direction; probably not.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.2

      Increasing poverty increases the competition for jobs which drives wages down and profits for the few up. National is in full support of this result and thus they work to increase poverty.

  2. aerobubble 2

    Poverty alleviation requires that the left consistently and forcefully make the case that National economic policies don’t just create and sustain poverty but push middle income NZ into poverty.
    The problem with Labour is they forgot that welfare is not a hand up, or a hand out, but directly a middle class jobs scam (sorry scheme), then indirectly lowers the cost of hiring people, making sure they are healthier, that they don’t become vectors for disease, that they have money to stimulate housing, retail, etc. i.e. a sane economy integrates income redistribution.

    Yesterday, Key’s economic watchdog clams victory in catching a ponsi scheme. Only 10 million was recovered. The left should be all over this story. How is it competent for a watchdog to catch a Ponsi scheme when its run its course? when the once middle income NZ investor has lost everything? When Key promised to clean up the financial system not three years ago. When Key has removed the deposit guarantee scheme! Does the left need to be gifted a more acute example of National failures! We need investment, we need middle NZ to keep their investment savings in NZ, and they would be fools to, since its now obvious the establishment want them to move their funds to Australia (or some other economy with deposit guarantees) due to the high dollar, and will not
    help our own business sector grow. Its a triple wammy for exporters, not only are they pushing farmers to remain raw exporters, but they are inhibiting growth in exports by not fairly taxing housing with a CGT, and then they undermine and shift the risks onto small investors who would be fool not to remove their money from NZ to other economies.

    How can Labour not manage to make the case, that National want to push middle NZ into poverty and then bash them as losers? Growing poverty is the whole basis of neo-liberalism, that’s what trickle down mean, it means gushing flows of cash to the already wealthiest. Geez, already, put the fear back into politics, that National don’t give a damn about the NZ economy, and you thought you were well off, but some massive Ponsi scheme wipes your relative out and you have to start putting your own hand in your own pocket?

    The only reason that you might not jump on the story is that it would, should, have been obvious that the investment company was not in the original deposit guarantee scheme, and those who realized early would have jumped removing the funds and thus forced the Ponsi scheme into its final death throw. Personally I believe anyone who invested should return the profits over the time of the fraud back to the liquidator to be divided evenly by all and so take some of the incentive to leave early rather than dob in and save the loss to most investors.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    Unemployment benefits the wealthy

    In short, if you didn’t already know, NZ’s monetary policy relies on certain levels of unemployment. Any government that is unwilling to change our monetary policy, then is lying through their teeth when they assert that their objective is full employment or high employment. Bold claim, I know, but instead of looking at why we have this spike in unemployment I was more interested in the role of unemployment in our economy so this post is a brief and probably over-simplistic look at monetary policy in NZ.

    It is simplistic but it’s also generally right. We have high unemployment in NZ to keep wages down and the result of that is increasing poverty.

  4. rosy 4

    An article in the Guardian by Deborah Orr on the attempts to redefine child poverty in terms of indicators rather than income comes to the conclusion that if parents are poor then their children are poor. Go figure – the big question is why moral conservatives and neo-liberals cannot see that.

    Child poverty is not a stand-alone problem with its own solution, no matter how you define it. It’s a grim, self-perpetuating consequence of adult poverty, just as it always has been.

    Also, some points based on Ian Duncan Smith’s attempted re-definition that includes worklessness, educational failure, family breakdown, problem debt and poor health. Rather than 60% of the median income (which as the sole measure has perversely reduced child poverty in the UK as work income for the working poor has reduced due to the government’s failure to deal with the fallout from the GFC – worth noting for NZ in the not to distant future debates on whether National has seen people move out of poverty).

    … the poorer you are, the higher the interest rates your loans attract, and the more difficult it becomes to summon up the motivation to pay them off. Problem debt is caused by problem lenders, who make a fortune out of poverty even as they perpetuate it. A crackdown on those who exploit poverty in this egregious fashion is long overdue.

    A lifetime of in-work poverty is actually not much more attractive than a lifetime of out-of-work poverty. It’s all very well banging on about self-respect, but low pay is all about lack of respect. It says the time of some people is of barely any worth.
    Asking people to respect themselves while defending the right of employers to treat them without respect is, to say the least, a mixed message. Low wages don’t motivate people. As long as renting a decent family home – let alone buying one – remains out of reach, or as long as paying today’s food or energy bills – never mind saving for the future – seems like an impossible task, then self-respect is hard.
    Mass child poverty is the consequence of denying whole swaths of people the ability to envisage a more affluent and secure future. That’s the important thing to understand.

    The trouble is with Dunne and Dunnokeyo is that they see poverty as a moral failure and sell a social and economic line that is not inclusive of the poor. In their world it’s not a case of how much the poor should get from the State, but whether they should get anything at all.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      Go figure – the big question is why moral conservatives and neo-liberals cannot see that.

      They don’t want to because then they’d have to accept that they’re part of the problem.

    • Bramble 5.1

      A conversation overheard last week….A wee boy telling his teacher why he had no lunch, and he had not had breakfast or dinner the previous night either .”We were waiting for Dad to come home from the pub with fish and chips for dinner, but he never came and we waited up sooo late. He hadn’t given any money to mum for food” The school fed him breakfast and lunch, and no they dont have breakfast or lunch clubs as they TRY to make parents responsible and care for their children. The person responsible for that little boy’s situation was his father, not the government.

  5. End Poverty Im sick of hearing about it 6

    Would it be rude of me to suggest that any kids in this highly “mythical” realm of poverty (Under $100k H/Hold income, that Turei dreamed up FG sake) can thank their parents for being bad with money and other life choices?
    I’ve made my choices – I own a house and have brought up 3 kids (who are now all working) on an income way less than that. However I did listen at school and I do make a point to go to work every day, which I think may make some difference. Harsh? Well no one ever offered me a handout, so thank god, have never relied on one. I for one, am sick of hearing the bleating, stacked with made up numbers from would be rulers who are slow and shallow thinkers. Bramble’s comment above gets my vote.
    The parents need the finger pointed at them and shamed – not the rest of New Zealand for the neglect shown by a handful. The Greens and Labour, both grinding this to death are doing zero, apart from reinforcing this victim mentality on those who lap it up and have the time to dwell on how shitty everything is – instead of focusing on how much better it’d be if they made a change. Maybe tomorrow though, ay?

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