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What Have Labour Done For The Poor, Exactly?

Written By: - Date published: 8:45 am, September 28th, 2020 - 30 comments
Categories: benefits, Carmel Sepuloni, Economy, labour, uncategorized, welfare - Tags:

There’s been plenty of criticism about Labour’s policies not being effective enough to alleviate poverty.
Time for a bit of perspective.

You’ll probably remember the interview Labour’s Carmel Sepuloni gave with TVNZ last year.

But, as with most policy areas, COVID19 focused the Minister’s mind, and that of Treasury.

Labour’s Social Welfare Minister has had a hard time from the Child Poverty Action Group recently. Their task is necessarily unceasing.

But, as the Minister rightly notes, Labour have implemented a lot.

For just a few of the highlights:

  • Labour did the Families Package early on which gave 384,000 families an extra $75 a week
  • Labour implemented the Best Start payment which gets parents with young children $60 a week for 3 years
  • They implemented 7 months paid Parental Leave, up from 4 months.
  • They actually did the hard political thing of setting legislated targets child poverty, which is going to grip them tighter and tighter each time it’s reported
  • Labour now gives free lunches through schools – by mid next year that’s 200,000 children eating better so they can learn better
  • Minister Sepuloni stopped the requirement to name the father or your benefit gets cut. A truly shitty National government policy.
  • Minister Sepuloni shifted the mean and disgusting punitive culture of Social Welfare, though is happy to admit there’s a lot more to do
  • Labour banned smoking in cars – great for child health – and when National started in power the smoking rate was about 20% and it’s down to 14.9%.
  • Allocated over half a billion in funding against domestic violence – now let’s see them spend it to make a difference
  • Did strong long term employment stuff like the Tupu Aotearoa and the expanded Mana In Mahi programmes for education pathways into work for Maori and Pacifica and generally people who had some massive social disadvantage
  • Increased the minimum wage, and promised to raise it again to $20 next year

Sure, there is plenty they didn’t do. Minister Sepuloni should keep taking the criticism, and fighting harder for her patch in Cabinet. That’s what you get paid for.

Of all the political capital they’ve accumulated, it’s sure time to spend some of it in social welfare.

And probably COVID19’s social and economic effects will confuse any causality of the collected policies to any change to the GINI Coefficient. Brutal damn year.

But that scale of positive social intervention never happened under National. Or Act.

Labour’s Carmel Sepuloni led this change, as did the Prime Minister herself.

It would have been a meaner, crueller, more damaged country without Labour’s social welfare policies; a very, very dark entry into the crisis we are in.

Social welfare is another portfolio for which Labour should be voted back in.

30 comments on “What Have Labour Done For The Poor, Exactly? ”

  1. Poppa G 1

    I think the handbrake NZ 1st applied in cabinet should not be underestimated. Labour, without that impediment should be able to more social gains. Keep in mind that covid is going to be having an effect for a some time yet.

    [Is there a good reason why you changed your user name? You’re creating extra work for Moderators. Please stick to only one user handle and to the old one from now on, thanks – Incognito]

  2. Rosemary McDonald 2

    What Have Labour Done For The Poor, Exactly?

    Sweet FA, tbh.


  3. Kay 3

    They've completely ignored the existence of people with long term illnesses and disabilities and barely-if ever- acknowledge our existence. As long as we don't exist they don't have to help.

    If none of them will even have the decency to respond to an email on the subject then as far as I'm concerned they have done absolutely nothing. The only thing I will agree with is things are always a hell of a lot worse in general under the Nat. It does not mean they are better under Labour.

  4. Anker 4
    • Also benefits raised by $25 at the start of covid. And they have linked benefits to wage inflation (I don’t really understand this, but I have heard it said this is helpful)
    • will in crease sick leave.

    heard Robertson talk about an insurance scheme for unemployment. Seems Sweden has this, was reading about it in the context of Covid

    • Kay 4.1

      I can assure you that $25 has achieved absolute nothing. For nearly all of us it was eaten up right away by the rent. The worrying thing now is, Temporary Additional Support renewals have been on hold for the last 6 months because of covid and WINZ being over-run but are about to be restarted. usually, an increase in benefit rates result in an automatic decrease in TAS. Given every beneficiary in private rental and/or with high disability costs is now getting TAS full time just to have a roof over our heads, we are facing the very real prospect of having up to $25 taken off us.

      • woodart 4.1.1

        totally disagree kay, that $25 per week was a 9.5 percent increase in my benefit. has made a big difference. along with the winter power payout(doubled this winter, has helped me pay off a couple of longstanding accounts and also put a little aside for rainy day. I realise that everybodies experiences vary, but if you turn your nose up at a nearly ten percent increase in your weekly stipend, dont expect sympathy from this fellow beneficary. your claim that every beneficary in private rental is now getting TAS is also wrong.

        • Kay

          Fine woodart, I'm very pleased that $25 has helped you. It's no doubt helped a few people, but it's made bugger all difference to the people I know in private accommodation for the reason I've given, especially when their rent is more than the core benefit and we need supplements to pay the bills. And did I turn up my nose? It is how ever, a token gesture and the government knows it. Until exorbatant rents are sorted then token gesture increases are not going to make much of a difference.

          I do agree, than in conjunction with the increased winter energy payment (= $65/week for a single person), now that has made a massive difference. But 40 of that is about to vanish as you know. And just how many people do you think actually used that energy payment to pay for energy? Like you say, pay off a couple of accounts (if they were power, then that shows you didn't have enough to meet non-winter prices), and put a bit aside, ie hoarding for the leaner times to come.

        • weka

          not everyone got $25.

      • Sabine 4.1.2

        Given every beneficiary in private rental and/or with high disability costs is now getting TAS full time just to have a roof over our heads, we are facing the very real prospect of having up to $25 taken off us.

        Bill was worried about that. He left a few comments stating exactly this just before lockdown.

        The state gives with one hand and it takes away with the other. the poverty of the masses as a political tool.

    • weka 4.2

      "Also benefits raised by $25 at the start of covid"

      It's important to understand that that doesn't mean that each beneficiary got an increase in the bank account each week. Depending on what supplementary benefits they get, that $25 is abated down once the full benefit is calculated. Some beneficiaries get much less.

  5. arkie 5

    This morning the Prime Minister ruled out raising benefits if they get a second term, pledged continued incrementalism.

    From 5:28

  6. Sabine 6

    They have not increased benefits for anyone unless they are Families. there you get a wee bit of money for kids under three, and once they are three years old and a day, the kids can go get a job and 'learn the value' of work.

    School Lunches – Again, we can credit Covid with the increases in the school lunches provided. The 200.000 number of kids getting is came about Covid, not need. Covid.


    Expanding the programme in response to COVID-19

    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the programme is being expanded to reach around 200,000 students by the end of 2021. It includes extending the programme to secondary schools.

    This initiative will help cushion the blow of COVID-19 impacts on students living in already socio-economically disadvantaged households which may now be experiencing heightened financial stress, job and income losses at home which can interfere with learning and wellbeing.

    The covid increase in the base benefits, due to Covid. The extra 25 NZD came because of Covid. No other reason than that. Not the need that was there already 3 years ago, 2 years ago and 1 year ago, but the Lockdown Level 4 braught that on. And only due to bad reports and bad score cards that were handed out before.


    Work and Income is fielding an unprecedented number of calls for people trying to access the jobseeker allowance, emergency food grants and wage subsidies – with 75,000 calls in just four days.

    Mary and her partner are both in their 50s and on the benefit.

    Between them, they get roughly $186 a week, plus some temporary additional support to pay off a car.

    As the lockdown drew near, their cupboards were almost empty, Mary said.

    She applied for an emergency food grant a week ago and heard nothing, so she approached advocacy group Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) for help.

    Her advocate applied for them and also heard nothing back.

    "She lent me $50 to get bread and butter. We were very grateful for that because we had absolutely nothing in our cupboards or fridge."

    Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March said Work and Income's system was "chaos".

    "We're incredibly concerned about the fact that Work and Income's emails and online systems are completely overloaded," he said.

    "People are going for days without accessing emergency assistance for things like food grants or even get into income support for those that are recently unemployed."

    He said there were some options the government could look at to help smoothen the process.

    "The simplest way to streamline this is to increase base-line benefit levels, so that we take off a lot of the demand for families to get in touch with Work and Income for food grants.

    "That would alleviate a lot of that hardship out there in the community and a lot of the time staff have to take to process these hardship grants."

    Benefits are set to increase by $25 from today but AAAP wants that to be raised higher.

    The winter energy payment, which those on benefits receive, is also doubling.

    The rent freeze? Covid.


    Landlords will not be allowed to increase rents or kick out their tenants except for in very specific situations during the four-week Covid-19 lockdown.

    The Government will today pass an urgent piece of legislation to ensure renters wouldn't suddenly be homeless and without somewhere to self-isolate.

    Housing Minister Megan Woods said there was also an obligation on tenants not to abuse the situation.

    I like the little admonishment of the renters to not 'abuse' the situation, no word yet on Labour admonishing the Landlords not to abuse the drop of the rent freeze, but i guess that is ok?

    The Covid unemployment?


    If you lose your job (including self-employment) from 1 March 2020 to 30 October 2020 due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for the COVID-19 Income Relief Payment.

    You can get up to 12 weeks of payments, to help with living costs after a sudden job loss, and give you time to find other work.

    Housing? Still as bad as it was 20 years ago, 10 years ago, 3 years ago, the rent freeze did help, but that is running out and i don't think Labour will extend it, despite the need for it.



    Budget 2019 will turn around the lives of more than a 1,000 long-term homeless people by helping them into permanent homes – the largest government investment ever in addressing chronic homelessness, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford announced today.

    Jacinda Ardern said Budget 2019 is breaking the cycle for long-term homeless people by giving them a permanent, warm and safe home, and support services to help address the causes of homelessness.

    never mind that by their own estimate in 2018 we had over 41800 people experiencing severe housing depreviation or homelessness , and the budget in 2019 did not even amount to a drop of water on a hot stone.


    The estimates confirm that on 6 March 2018 there were at least 41,600 people experiencing severe housing deprivation.

    The total includes:

    • 3,522 people who were considered to be living without shelter (on the streets, in improvised dwellings – including cars – and in mobile dwellings).
    • 7,567 people who were living in temporary accommodation (night shelters, women’s refuges, transitional housing, camping grounds, boarding houses, hotels, motels, vessels, and marae).
    • 30,555 people who were sharing accommodation, staying with others in a severely crowded dwelling.

    Food security? go check the increase in foodbank parcels.


    A leading charity has seen a staggering 175 per cent increase in demand for food parcels this winter as the fallout of coronavirus continues to be felt by Kiwi families.

    Before the pandemic, Auckland City Mission was distributing 450 parcels a week to families and individuals who could not otherwise put food on the table. Over lockdown, this rose to more than 1200.

    The need has continued, with about 1000 parcels – each with enough food to provide four days of meals to a family-of-four – currently being distributed each week.

    Income? Go check out the hard ship grants that we are handing out.


    on average by their own numbers income fell by abut 50 NZD – just about the price of water and maybe internet per month.

    Unemployment? currently the hardest hit are already among the poorest or those most likely to be employed part time, low skilled and low wage jobs – Women, Young, Elders, Disabled/differntly abled. The ones that were already suffering before covid.


    No shovel ready jobs for the dears, just the same old humiliating Winz – kinder and gentler if you can get someone to answer the phone in the first place, and then a benefit only if your husband does not earn 0.50 cnt above the threshold, and then my dear you depend on your husband for your three meals a day and nice save and warm bed at nigh. IF the partner is a bit of a shitheel go run to a womens refugee or just die in a ditch.


    “Auckland Action Against Poverty launched its Liveable Incomes For All campaign earlier this year, inviting political parties to commit to lifting incomes to liveable levels, individualising benefits and removing all sanctions within three years. Both the Green Party and the Māori Party pledged their support to our campaign, but the Labour Party refused to engage with our demands. Now that the Labour Party has announced its welfare policy we know that if they win an outright majority this election significant welfare reform would not be part of the political agenda.

    “Despite all the rhetoric of kindness and compassion from the Prime Minister her Party is heading into the election without a commitment to lift people on the benefit out of poverty. COVID-19 is only going to put more strain on frontline Work and Income staff, with more people on jobseeker benefits needing food grants. Leaving core benefits below the poverty line during an economic crisis is irresponsible.

    Band aids, that is all they handed out. Not serious surgery for the festering boil that is poverty in NZ to clean up and heal, but shitty little bandaids so they – Labour – can feel like they did something.

    Labour should be ashamed of themselves with their kinder and gentler bullshit, its not even enough of a turd to trickle down to those that need it the most.

    • Sabine 6.1

      Unemployment? currently the hardest hit are already among the poorest or those most least likely to be employed are part time, low skilled and low wage jobs – Women, Young, Elders, Disabled/differntly abled, Maori and POC. The ones that were already suffering before covid.

      Fixed above error.

    • woodart 6.2

      didnt bother to read all of your post ,because your first line is totally incorrect, who knows about the rest. I live alone, not a family, and my benefit was raised $25 per week. if you are going to put a rant on here, get your facts correct!

      • Kay 6.2.1

        Yes she did get that first line wrong, that dates back to National and their pathetic attempt at saying how wonderful they were at fixing child poverty.

        I gather you don't get TAS woodart? If you don't then you'll get to keep your $25. As for the many, many of us reliant on it, well like I said, we're about to find out how much will be clawed back. You do know that's how they get away with these 'increases' don't you? Take away to give = not much of an increase to the budget.

  7. Sabine 7

    i have a comment in moderation due to high use of links. I hope it gets trhough. 🙂

  8. Stuart Munro 8

    It is one of the core principles of quality assurance that you determine the efficacy of your products or services, not independently, but in close consultation with your customer base.

    Though there would be no argument that Labour have done infinitely better than National would have done, that's a pretty back-handed compliment. The measures taken in support of the response to Covid were very positive however.

    But Labour still have much ground to make up for offshoring my industry. A few grudging sops thrown to the folk they impoverished in the first place don't make up for that. They really need to put some thought into what would create better prospects for those freight-trained by their ill-judged enthusiasm for the lies of Roger Douglas.

  9. adam 9

    There you been told,

    so shut up and take your scraps you ungrateful peons.

  10. Craig H 10


    • a collection of pay equity settlements
    • Living Wage for public service employees with contracted workers to follow
    • indexing benefits against average wages, not CPI – obviously that's a long term system fix, not an immediate item, but the minimum wage increases and various living wage and pay equity settlements will also flow through this mechanism to benefit rates
    • winter energy payment (not stated in OP, but obviously mentioned a few times in comments)
    • increased student allowance
    • fees free – 1 year for university students, 2 years for apprentices

    Thoroughly agree that there is a long way to go, but hundreds of thousands of people are better off from these policies. For future policies, I'd suggest expanding ACC to illness and social insurance since people will be invested in a better welfare system if they are paying directly into it and can see the potential benefits for themselves. Potentially also has the bonus of eliminating income protection insurance as a thing.

    I just realised in typing this that it is unclear whether I meant to include social insurance in ACC or as a separate thing, so perhaps that can be a discussion topic.

  11. Corey Humm 11

    Notice that the nz left lazily only talks about poverty in one way: Families. Families families. Child poverty. CHILD poverty.

    Because middle class liberals have decided that adults who are in poverty deserve it.

    Won't somebody think of the children!!!

    Bugger all for anyone without kids, whose disabled can't work because of mental illness or can't find a job right now in any real financial way once covid benifit runs out.

    • Geoff Lye 11.1

      Spot on or people who cant pay for meds and cant even get a benefit either .

    • KJT 11.2

      The reason is that there isn't enough sympathy, for adults in poverty, to get traction for reducing poverty. See the antipathy from the Chardonnay Socialists on here, to even minimal taxes on the rich, to be used to reduce poverty.

      The only way to get any progress is to talk about child poverty.

      The religious belief that poverty is deserved, is so prevalent in New Zealand. (Comforting to our sense of decency, if we can tell ourselves we are richer, because we are better people). Nurtured by the many who either profit from poverty, or do not want to contribute, even the price of a few coffees a week, to reducing it.
      The belief that NZ is a meritocracy, where people get the income they deserve, is a common self justifying delusion, still!

      However even they cannot justify claiming that little children, "deserve" poverty without sounding totally callous.

      Disabled people seem, unfortunately, to be invisible.

      The actual "Left" whose only representatives in Parliament are the Greens, "well meaning middle class they may be, but their hearts are in the right place, have not forgotten about adults that are poor. We are struggling to get more help for the poor. At least if we get children helped a lot more, we may be able to break the cycle of poverty somewhat.

  12. Riff.s 12

    As has been touched on in the comments, raising benefits and working class wages mainly benefits landlords. Any extra money gets thrown into a rent payment bidding war in a desperate search for adequate housing.

    Ending the housing shortage is a necessary first step to reduce poverty. The only way to end a housing shortage is to build houses. Here labour has delivered the most building starts for a generation both public and private. Also a good move by labour to increase capacity by using free fees to get the young ones onto trades rather than uni.

    Its a long game but I think they've got the right idea.

    • PsyclingLeft.Always 12.1

      Yep incl the landlords Bene, the NZ Govt Accommodation Supplement. Another example of Socialism for the rich pricks…even moreso those with multiple properties.

      The criminal selling off of OUR State Housing…by nat and neolib "labour" has lead us to a bad place. Better change….

      Some old news…but hey..relevant as ever

      "It seems that an economy whose claim to fame has been getting rid of subsidies is now more reliant than ever on a subsidy to landlords which became the centrepiece of National’s housing reforms of the 1990s (and was embraced again when the party regained office) and a subsidy to employers that was a flagship policy of the Clark Labour governments (I’m told it was politically verboten in Treasury at the time to characterise WFF as a benefit, which it really is)."


    • KJT 12.2

      Agree the fees free trades and building State rentals are good policy.

      However we need State house building at the per capita level of the 40's and 50's to even make a dent.

      Training up kids on the job to build 10 000 State rentals would be an excellent, “Shovel ready” project.

      • PsyclingLeft.Always 12.2.1

        @ 12.2 Hey I've thought, said, promoted (wished ) that for so long….just seems to be that cliche "no brainer" but so long coming…. Just frustrating as all hell. And Hey re you at 11.2. I kinda wondered what I'd struck here at times. Power to you matey… : )!

  13. Adrian Thornton 13

    No capital gains tax while Ardern leader


    I think a prime minister that touts pragmatism as one of their greatest assets, but only takes a firm stand on NOT implementing a capital gains tax, thereby directly supporting and encouraging the obscene housing ‘market’ has made it quite plain what their fundamental ideology is…free market capitalism, if she can help the poor within that frame work fine, but you can be sure she and this liberal Labour govt will NOT operate outside of their own self-imposed liberal free market framework. That is just a fact that they have made abundantly clear to anyone who chooses to see it can plainly see..like it or not.

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