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Sepuloni: Labour to increase Jobseeker benefit

Written By: - Date published: 7:44 am, May 3rd, 2021 - 58 comments
Categories: benefits, Carmel Sepuloni, child welfare, labour, poverty - Tags:

Some good news from over the weekend.  Labour is planning to significantly increase the level of Jobseeker benefit.

From Dan Satherley at Newshub:

The Minister for Social Welfare has a goal of raising the unemployment benefit by $57 a week by 2023.

Carmel Sepuloni told Newshub Nation on Saturday morning she was “confident” the Government would reach the $315 target set by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group for a single person on the Jobseeker benefit.

But she wouldn’t be drawn on how soon the hike would come.

“We will be addressing income adequacy this term, but I’m not going to rule in or out what will be in the Budget… I cannot talk about what might be in or out of the Budget before the 20th of May. We’ll just have to wait until then.”

For a single person 25 or over, it’s currently $258 a week after tax.

Clearly there will be more details announced in the budget.

The changes are welcome.  The country still has not properly recovered from the Ruth Richardson benefit cuts in the mother of all budgets which cut benefits to below sustainability levels as an incentive for the poor to find jobs that did not exist.

And successive governments have not repaired the damage.  Some will criticise Labour for not going far enough.  All I can say is look what happens when you do not have to rely on New Zealand First for confidence and supply.

Carmel Sepuloni is working through the recommendations of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s Report.  All strength to her.

58 comments on “Sepuloni: Labour to increase Jobseeker benefit ”

  1. Sabine 1

    Well that is good new, sad news tho that those currently trying to survive on these beggar benefits is that they have to wait till 2023 which is still some time away. But i am sure the what ever scraps they will throw at our unemployed will be thankfully received.

    Its not that they don't know what they have to do, its just that they can't get over this puritan state of mind that someone who does not work is at fault and thus needs to be punished so as to not forget the value of work.

    But then Carmel Sepuloni is confident they are reaching a target set in 2019 (which is two years ago) in 2023. She is ‘confident’. Well fed, well housed, well dressed and confident. Shame however she possesses none.

    Immediate steps towards adequacy

    The large deficits identified above support the repeated calls by many groups for an immediate and significant increase in main benefit rates (Child Poverty Action Group, 2019). Notably, though, a 20% increase in main benefit rates, as many have suggested (including in submissions and during our consultation hui), would still leave many with inadequate levels of income. This is especially the case if meaningful participation in communities is an objective.

    too little too late as always.

    Also 315 NZD before or after tax is not even enough to rent a kennel for a week and eat or pay electricity, or participate in any meaningful way in our communities.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 1.1

      "they have to wait till 2023 "

      They wont have to , thats the target date for multi year increase…21,22,23

      • Sabine 1.1.1

        yeah, 57 NZD propsed almost 3 years ago, will now take another 1.5 years to be rolled our, and please i hope you read the line were dear Sepuloni is 'confident' not sure, not expecting, not wanting, but confident that that trickle will trickle down.

        In the meantime in real Nuzillind, where Carmel Sepuloni does not live,

        https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/over-200-000-early-welfare-benefit-payments-have-been-paid-in-last-three-months-figures-show

        Beneficiaries paying between 80 and 110 per cent of their benefit in rent have been seeking early pay-outs, resulting in over 200,000 advanced payments being made in the last three months by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD).

        But i am sure that the people will rejoice when they receive their taxable income err benefit increase.

        Also 2023 is 87 weeks of benefit payments away. I am sure they can wait that long for that full 57 NZD to arrive (before or after tax).

        hat tip link by Sacha on the OM.

    • Sanctuary 1.2

      From the 1st of April this year the abatement rate rose from $90 to $160.

      https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/about-work-and-income/news/2021/income-abatement-changes.html

      So if you can secure eight hours of employment (which given this governments increasingly obvious "disaster socialism" clampdown on unskilled immigration – https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/politics/jane-clifton-the-governments-silence-on-immigration-is-deafening/RSIPKTRFXNTJIUKUXEQ7M6ENTE/ -should NOT be a problem for almost anyone capable of work) then you'll get up to an additional $140 per week (after tax), or around $450 per week before abatement rates.

      NZ is not a hugely rich country. That is pretty damn good and a great start to alleviating poverty if you happen to be of a mind that the best way to stop poverty is to give people more money.

      • Sabine 1.2.1

        Labour is being dragged here.

        Before the election Dear Leader very happily stated that there will be NO benefit increases. She doubled down later with an interview stating taht this is nto something that can be done fast. ]

        \https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO2102/S00087/no-mention-of-raising-benefit-levels-in-the-labour-governments-budget-policy-statement-2021.htm

        Grant Robertson revealed the Labour government’s budget policy statement for 2021 a few days ago and their books are better than expected, but there is no mention of lifting benefits to liveable levels for families living in severe hardship.

        “At this point they’re complicit in keeping people trapped in hardship. They’re the government, they're very aware of the levels of poverty that exist across the country and if they aren’t then they should reconsider their jobs. Politicians are there to serve the people and they need to start acting like it” said Brooke Stanley Pao of Auckland Action Against Poverty.

        this is nothing more then a cynical move so as to be seen to do anything. Nothing more and nothing left.

        Couple that with the house prices that are still raising, electricty going up, food costs going up, transport costs going up etc, and that is nothing more then an act of Kabuki Theatre.

        Loud, shrill, but ones the dust settles nothing much changed.

        IF this is Labour at its finest then the Labour Party of NZ is the most cynical Tory party on this planet.

        • ghostwhowalksnz 1.2.1.1

          Are we into "dear leader' syndrome are we? Is that the terms they use around the office at AAAP

      • Sabine 1.2.2

        You need to get that job first. And even that step was about 15 years to late.

        The point is not that they do nothing, they point is that they only do when they absolutly have too and then it is several years to late and several hundred dollars short.

        Our poor are made debtors to the state by the state, and that should be illegal. In fact our benefit rates are so low that one could argue that the State defacto has become a pay day lender with the same disastrous result, and yeah, if you don't pay pack you will be referred to a collection agency.

      • weka 1.2.3

        How did you get the $140?

  2. Sabine 2

    And just so that people know (i would assume that half here will not read any of the links provided in the post) in 2019 when these recommendations were provided to the Government they were mostly ignored and not acted upon.

    These are our current starvation beggar level unemployment rates that people only get if they have lost a job, not done anything to lose that job, have been in a job long enough to pay taxes for a certain time and are actively looking for job, and are not partnered with someone who has an income ( as that can lead to no benefits).
    http://www.weag.govt.nz/weag-report/whakamana-tangata/achieving-security-requires-adequate-income/immediate-steps-towards-adequacy/

    Payment rates, abatement thresholds and rates, new or removed / Current state / Recommended change

    Main benefits – payment rates

    Jobseeker Support (and Youth Payment) – single (18–24 years)$179 per week (p/w)$315 p/w

    Jobseeker Support – single (25 years+)$215 p/w$315 p/w

    Jobseeker Support – sole parent$334 p/w-

    Sole Parent Support (and Young Parent Payment)$334 p/w$374 p/w

    Jobseeker Support – couple$179 p/w each Jobseeker Support –

    Couple with children$192 p/w each$268 p/w each

    in bold are the increases as demanded by the WEAG report, from 2019.

    While this is a 'good news' it is also pathetic, and does not even amount to a spit on a hot stone.

    Several years late, several hundred dollar short, and by the time anyone will receive that full amount, that Carmel Sepuloni is so pleased to be gushing about, it it will not make an iota of difference.

    Labour, cant' won't, must be dragged kicking and screaming to do the right thing.

    (disclaimer: i would say exactly the same about National and have in regards to this touchy topic. Both parties are tory parties when it comes to unemployed, unemployable, unable to work, single parents/grand parents etc – namely without kindness, without remorse and callous to the hilt).

    • mickysavage 2.1

      Labour arn't being dragged anywhere. They finally have the numbers to effect change and they are doing it.

      If you want some comment on what they did last term to address the WEAG recommendations can I recommend https://thestandard.org.nz/what-the-government-has-done-for-beneficiaries/

      • Sabine 2.1.1

        from the Scoop in 2021

        https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO2102/S00087/no-mention-of-raising-benefit-levels-in-the-labour-governments-budget-policy-statement-2021.htm

        Grant Robertson revealed the Labour government’s budget policy statement for 2021 a few days ago and their books are better than expected, but there is no mention of lifting benefits to liveable levels for families living in severe hardship.

        “At this point they’re complicit in keeping people trapped in hardship. They’re the government, they're very aware of the levels of poverty that exist across the country and if they aren’t then they should reconsider their jobs. Politicians are there to serve the people and they need to start acting like it” said Brooke Stanley Pao of Auckland Action Against Poverty.

        never mind Jacinda Ardern before Christmas

        https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/123375876/no-christmas-present-from-the-govt-for-new-zealands-poor

        The week started with an open letter from more than 60 charities and advocacy groups urging the Government to increase benefit levels by Christmas. They made the persuasive argument that the extra support given to those who lost their jobs because of the Covid-19 pandemic shows that the Government is aware benefits are insufficient.

        The Covid-19 income relief payment was $490 per week. By contrast, the JobSeeker benefit was little more than half that.

        Ardern responded to the letter by quickly ruling out benefit increases, arguing that poverty is not an issue that can be resolved within one week, one month or even one term. She warned that increases would have a knock-on effect on budgets in the future.

        Mind she also said that

        https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2020/11/how-jacinda-ardern-officially-responded-to-charities-wanting-benefit-boost-and-calling-her-disconnected.html

        to much to actually to link properly but it is a list of excuses as to why labour will not do what is needed, she talks about school lunches, min wage increases and all that jazz, and you know what Mickey its all baloney. She may feel good about herself, but then she will never have to call winz for an early pay out of a benefit to pay rent (labour did fuck all there to regulate rent increases or a rent cap), her daughter will never get a crappy government provided sandwhich because her own parents are too poor to make on for her, she will never know the unkindness and harshness that she and her government and her party are inflicting on the poor, she will no more e xperience poverty then any of the National doodahs.

        National and Labour have the same Tory/Calvinist/Puritan ideas about poverty and the people that try to survive it. And they are both complicit in the creation of poverty in this country.

        so yeah, they are complicit, cynical, and sadly not the party to fix it. They are the great pretenders. And that is about it.

        • mickysavage 2.1.1.1

          Your first point is to criticise Robertson for not announcing an increase in benefit levels.

          Sepuloni just did. And provided a time frame. You can bet dollars to donuts that there will be an increase announced in this year's budget.

          You don't think that Winston no longer being on the scene is coincidental?

          • Sabine 2.1.1.1.1

            No my point is that until yesterday Labour was happy to not pay anyone anything more then that, and was publicly so as per various interviews.

            My point is that in Jacindas and Grants New Zealand, last year the beneficiaries of this country got emergency benefits or early benefit pay or some hard ship grants just to maybe have something to eat in the house during holidays. Cause if kids don't go to no school they ain't gonna eat that yummi government sandwich for lunch that the poor parents can't afford to make themselves. See how that goes?

            Yes, Labour is getting dragged into doing this, because the number of emergency benefits, hardship grants, and bad press is getting a bit too loud.

            • mickysavage 2.1.1.1.1.1

              This proposal would have been months in development, carefully costed and the publicity campaign carefully crafted.

              • Sabine

                Oh yea, it surely would and was. Money and time needs to be spend no matter the need on the ground, after all we don't want to upset some future national voters or something.

                In saying that, the work was literally done for them by WEAG.
                And they had to incubate it for another 2 odd years, and they need to announce it now, with the news full of poor pensioneers not having enough to heat and eat, children living in rotten motel accomodation next to gangbangers and drug dealers, and preschoolers going to school hungry.

                Nope, that is another poll tested, timid exercise on putting another band aid on the festering, puss fill wound that is poverty in NZ. Pathetic and way to late – the only date that number of dollar had any meaningful impact was in 2019 and they asked for the immediate increase. Not some wishy washy a few pennies every other month.

                But hey, its better then nothing, right? Callous and pathetic at the same time.

                • Louis

                  Its better than what it was under National. Benefits have increased under Labour, people have access to more support that they were denied under National; that made people jump through hoops, punished them, instead of helping them. You must have been beside yourself when National removed people from the housing wait list, made it harder to get on it, closed all the HNZ offices and sold off and demolished thousands of state houses, whilst making it even harder to access welfare support and food grants etc.
                  Micky is right, " they finally have the numbers to effect change and they are doing it" Labour never said it could fix everything all at once, it was never going to be a quick, easy overnight fix, its going to take a hell of a lot longer than 3 and half years and the changes need to be sustainable and able to outlast a future National govt, that will waste no time in trying to overturn any reforms that help people.

                  • Sabine

                    who? National? The party that lost some 4.5 odd years ago and now runs around like a flock of headless chicken? The party that is the opposition of todays government? That National Party?

                    Funny i thought that the current government is a Majority labour Government. Silly me, oh, hang on, the government is a majority labour government, it does not even need coalition partners. Go figure.

                    .

                    • Louis

                      It hasnt been 4.5 odd years ago though. Labour won a majority how many months ago?

                    • Sabine

                      dear Louis,

                      Labour is in its second round of governing.

                      So yeah, Labour has been at it for 4 odd years , starting with the election in 2017 where thanks to Winston Peters, Jacinda Ardern was elevated to the role she now holds. The second election was won by Covid.

                    • Louis

                      dear Sabine, it hasn't been 4 odd years though and that's MMP, that's how MMP works and Labour's landslide victory, imo, was more than just about Covid19.

                  • mickysavage

                    Sabine do you know how Wellington works? This is radical.

                    If you need to understand why Labour was not so radical last term here is the answer:

                    https://elections.nz/media-and-news/2017/new-zealand-2017-general-election-official-results/

              • weka

                It’s good that they’ve finally made the announcement and I look forward to analysis of the publicity approach. My problem isn’t that Labour don’t have a magic money tree, it’s that in two years that $57 could easily be swallowed up by rises in accommodation costs. Labour appear to be relying on building social housing and creating jobs, but there are so many people now that will fall through the cracks. This is why it looks like Labour’s base position is to shore up those above the underclass, stop as many from falling into the underclass as possible, pull some moderate numbers up from the underclass and leave the rest behind as collateral damage. Even if one accepts the pragmatic of that (and I don’t think Labour are being callous), it’s hard to see how it will work given the future we are going into.

          • Sacha 2.1.1.1.2

            The Budget Policy statement says nothing about any income support changes in the 2021-2022 year, and emphasises ongoing cost control and a focus on immediate Covid-related priorities. https://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/budget-policy-statement/budget-policy-statement-2021

            Put together with Sepuloni's passing comment on the telly, any significant increase must be scheduled for following financial years.

          • Louis 2.1.1.1.3

            @ MS +1

      • Sabine 2.1.2

        and this is something they really created thanks to super cheap money to the very connected and rich'

        Rotorua's median weekly rent for August was $450 – a 5 per cent increase when compared with the same month last year. … In Rotorua, demand for rentals was up by 2 per cent in August compared with the same month last year, and market supply was also up by 14 per cent year-on-year in August.4/10/2020

        on these starvation live in a ditch benefit you can't even rent a dog kennel, i stand corrected.

        https://www.google.com/search?q=Rent+increases+in+rotorua&rlz=1C1CHBF_enNZ860NZ860&oq=Rent+increases+in+rotorua+&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l6j69i60.3398j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

      • Louis 2.1.3

        @MS +1

    • KSaysHi 2.2

      I agree with you Sabine. There is repeated pressure on them from those advocating for benefits.

      I believe they have used their numbers to support workers rather than those who cannot work, unless I’m missing a corresponding announcement saying SLP rates are going up too?

  3. Chris 3

    The photograph of the minister's tweet should be put on t-shirts:

    Us and them – what will Labour do about WINZ?

    • Sabine 3.1

      from your link – on of Stephanies Tweets

      This is why I'm so hot on narrative and framing and why I despair of lefties who write it off as "marketing" or "spin". The day we accept WINZ has "clients" is the day we concede the argument that social welfare is a business transaction, not a moral duty of government.

      This is pretty much what it has come to.

      And the conversation below that tweet : What else shall we call them? Good grief, People, New Zealanders, Kiwis, Whanau, Family, People

      • Adrian Thornton 3.1.1

        We lost the battle of controlling the narrative when we allowed ourselves to be termed 'consumers' and not Citizens…and therein lays the crux of this battle…these free market Liberals (ie Labour/National) don't give a fuck if you are white/black/yellow/gay/straight or whatever, as long as you can consume commodities at a level that allows a (supposed) unlimited and endless growth of this ponzi scheme disguised as an economy.

        Every sentient being in NZ understands that this increase in payments is only going to go directly to pay increased rents resulting from the uncontrolled and obscene housing disaster…often referred to as the housing market.

        Sadly we have no real progressive politics, let alone progressive economists operating anywhere near the levers of power in NZ.

        ‘Barefoot economics’

        http://www.progressivepulse.org/economics/barefoot-economics

        • In Vino 3.1.1.1

          Agreed, Adrian.

          In Education, we teachers were told by some in a position of influence that our students were our customers, our clients (proponents of school voucher systems liked this theory.)

          Strangely, most of us felt unconvinced, and pointed out obvious flaws in this simplified, fallacious analogy. Thank heavens, most keen proponents of that crap have now done their token few years and moved on from Boards of Trustees, out of the field of Education.

          But the mess those idiots left behind we are still struggling to fix up. Most of their reforms were in fact cost-cutting. They fiddles figures to say that we were spending more dollars on Education than ever, without mentioning that dollars had devalued, school rolls had grown, and they had thrown money at new, dodgy tertiary ventures, meaning that funding per capita for normal students had far from increased..

          Smoke, mirrors and specious theories, all to cut social spending and feed the money to the deserving wealthy.

  4. AB 4

    Let's change the name from "jobseeker benefit" to "citizen's entitlement".

    • Tiger Mountain 4.1

      Yes indeed, the subtext being from “dirty, filthy, bennie” to “what John Key was raised on”. Neo liberals are at peak cruelty with their “work will set you free” mantra.

      Widows Benefit, Family Benefit etc. and older iterations of the Social Security Act under DSW did not reduce the needs of the vulnerable to a transaction, a walk of shame, a personal failing. Social Security was a solid part of being an NZ citizen that people were appreciative of. We looked after our own.

      There is an ideological shift needed along with any grudging changes Labour might make to WINZ/MSD. Maybe now that we have two tier benefits–COVID & non COVID–and thousands of middle class people have experienced for themselves the tender sadism of WINZMSD, change can start to happen.

      • Sabine 4.1.1

        Labour had a few years now to change Winz, as Chris pointed out in his link to a diary from Weka dating to 2018.

        They have done fuck all since.

        And no one is expecting Carmel to do anything more then she is explicitly told to do. And that means fuck all.

        • Tiger Mountain 4.1.1.1

          I was a “burn Shipley burn” marcher and Peoples Centre member in the 90s. I recall Clark era Labour’s “Jobs Jolt” that forbade people to move to the provinces on pain of losing WINZ entitlements. I also opposed the Nat Key years “War on the poor” led by Paula Rebstock and Paula Bennett.

          So Sabine-I get it. Beneficiaries have been othered and demonised for way too long in this “Tale of two cities” country. Miserable lives in a land of plenty has to end.

          • Sabine 4.1.1.1.1

            we have come full circle haven't we. We are all clients and tenants now in our country.

          • Adrian Thornton 4.1.1.1.2

            @Tiger Mountain, The AKL peoples centre? I meet Sue Bradford there during the early 1990's (I think), she helped me prepare a small business grant…actually her husband picked me up hitchhiking, when I told him my plans, he drove me into town to meet Sue..I got the grant and started my first (sort of)serious business, she was one of the most authentic politicians ever to set foot into the Beehive, also the greatest mistake the Green Party membership ever made was not electing her co-leader IMO.

            • Tiger Mountain 4.1.1.1.2.1

              Yep, Auck People’s Centre, my partner was a bennificiary advocate there.

              Agree about Sue and Greens.

    • KSaysHi 4.2

      BOOM.

  5. Sabine 5

    And just before anyone really believes that indivduals will actually get 57 NZD, no the won't. First that amount is taxed. Second if this is an increase in base benefits, any fringe benefits that someone gets to top of that base benefit to something like 'livable' will see these fringe benefits decreased.

    The government announceth and the government taketh with the same breath.

    • KSaysHi 5.1

      Lots of the people missing out are disabled, and their children or caregivers for disabled = 53% of all benefit recipients. The reason they miss out is the reason Sabine outlined above…this really is the give and take government for the majority of beneficiaries.

      Great interview from Dr Huhana Hickey on Breakfast this morning. Starts 30mins in

      https://www.tvnz.co.nz/shows/breakfast/episodes/s2021-e72

    • Michael 5.2

      Also abatements of supplementary benefits and allowances. These took a huge bite out of last year's much-trumpeted "$25.00 a week increase" in main benefits. In some cases people were actually worse off.

  6. roger douglas, richard prebble, mike moore, ruth richardson , jenny shipley, bill english, shonkey, have a lot to answer for. thousands of us have endured unnecessary misery bccause of the fresh water economic dogma promoted from Chicago.

    Tax cuts for the wealthy. Benefit cuts for the poor.

    capitalists keep raping the planetary environment for whose benefit?

    for every winner there is a loser.

    I am relieved that I do not have grandchildren, as much as wish I did. At least I have not betrayed them.

    Chicago economics, pandemics, climate change ?

    It is a rocky future without considering international politics (shudder).

    How many humans, behaving as they do, can this planetary environment support?

    Job seekers were created by humans following selfish greedy creeds with no safety nets.

    We can do better.

  7. Michael 7

    Any increase to jobseeker allowance, if it happens, will leave people too sick or disabled to work, or caring for others, in deeper poverty than ever. Starving the non-working poor is a feature of succcessive neoliberal govts in NZ. Unless and until it raises main benefits for people receiving Supported Living Payment (which should be renamed), as recommended by WEAG, this govt remains cruel, callous and deeply hypocritical.

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