Vulnerability: An Ongoing Story

“We applaud the work of the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services in the launch of their final Vulnerability Report today. These reports have kept issues of poverty and the range of pressing issues that those living in poverty are facing at the forefront”, says Dr Anna Casey-Cox of Poverty Action Waikato.

The NZCCSS report highlights that what social services in Hamilton are seeing on a regular basis is also experienced on a national level. “Too many people have too little. People aren’t getting out of poverty by living on nothing”, says Karen Morrison-Hume, Missioner of Anglican Action in Hamilton. “More funding is needed for services to address increasing demand and the increasing complexity of their needs, and more funding is needed for those individuals and their whānau.”

Wages have not risen sufficiently to cover increases in accommodation and living costs, the report stipulates. “Being employed on the minimum wage means living in poverty for many families we see”, says John Kavanagh, Manager of Catholic Family Support Services. “We pay a Living Wage because we believe that it is hard to survive in our community without a reasonable amount of income, and that we see many people who struggle to survive on their income. If we were all paid a Living Wage a lot of the other poverty related issues that people face would disappear.”

Food poverty and insecurity is described by the NZCCSS report as a now normalized issue facing our communities. Poverty Action Waikato’s latest report shows that community responses to food need in Hamilton are on the rise. But this is not surprising to many of the social services. “Of course this is happening”, says Robert Moore, Social Justice Enabler at Anglican Action. “If we as community can feed people who are hungry we will do it, but it’s living in the tension, because then Government can say, ‘well the community is doing it now we don’t have to’ and put up barriers to access assistance for food, or not make sure people have enough money to feed their families. But actually, this isn’t what we are funded to do. The community will always try and fill any gaps with whatever resources we have, but that’s not an excuse for Government to create them.”

 

Ends

 

See the full NZCCSS Vulnerability Report here.

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Submission: Social Security Legislation Rewrite Bill

22 June 2016

 

 

Background:

Poverty Action Waikato (PAW) is a regional advocacy and research organisation. Poverty Action Waikato aims to research and to advocate for action to meet both immediate social needs and to bring about necessary structural change over time.

 

Submission:

Poverty Action Waikato does not support the Social Security Legislation Rewrite Bill. This view in based on PAW’s recent research and relationships with the social service sector. Through our research we have identified a number of concerning issues regarding the current provision of social welfare, including people unable to access the support that they need. The requirements of the welfare system to meet certain requirements, including accessing over-subscribed budgeting services, are creating barriers to service that people are unable to overcome. The barriers to service are resulting in people sleeping in cars and resorting to charity in order to get the food that they need.

Poverty Action Waikato does support the simplification of the social security legislation that would result in more effective social welfare service to our most vulnerable populations. This rewrite bill does not achieve this, but instead entrenches a damaging, punitive approach to social welfare provision.

We are opposed to the bill for the following reasons:

  • The Bill entrenches a vindictive and punitive form of social welfare provision that our research identifies as resulting in increasingly marginalised communities who are unable to access adequate social, housing and income support.
  • We do not support the ongoing shift of focus away from ensuring those in need have the means to dignified survival to an unrelenting focus on paid work opportunity. We do not believe that a focus on paid work gives due recognition to the various unpaid work roles, including parenting or caring for elders in the home, that are vital to the development of a flourishing society.
  • We consider that Work and Income should focus on ensuring that people who are unemployed or underemployed are provided education, training and decent work opportunity. We do not agree with the unrelenting focus on shifting people who are sick, disabled or sole parents into part-time employment that is often casualised, temporary and low paid.
  • We disagree with the investment approach to welfare. This approach treats people as financial risks rather than as dignified human beings who deserve the same consideration as any other person in society. The investment approach will unfairly profile those whom the Government thinks are liable and a risk. By categorising people according to financial risk, the investment approach has to potential to heighten stigma and entrench discrimination.
  • We oppose the loss of agency that will result if this rewrite bill is passed. We are opposed to the redirection of benefits without consent. When you are on a low income, you are continuously making trade-offs between basic items and expenses. Removing choice about what to spend money on would create another level of stress in an already stressful situation. The mandatory redirection of benefits has the propensity to leave families without enough to meet essential expenses and no individual discretion to meet those challenges.
  • We request the removal of Sections 176, 177 and 178 from the Social Security Legislation Rewrite Bill. These sections impose a $22-$28 per week per child sanction on sole parent beneficiaries (mainly women) who are unable to identify the father of their child.  In doing so they penalise families already struggling to survive.

 

Post Budget Memo to MP’s David Bennett and Tim MacIndoe

On Friday the 27th of May, we delivered the following post budget memo to MP’s David Bennett and Tim MacIndoe . We are awaiting a response.

MEMOPAW Logo redrawn 2013-1112

RESPONSE TO BUDGET 2016

Date: 27 May 2016

To:  David Bennett and Tim MacIndoe

From: Poverty Action Waikato

 

This budget represents a poverty of imagination and yet again the poor and working poor are the losers.  The needs of people living on the breadline are immediate yet there is no direct funding from the budget that will meet any of these needs.

We note the complete absence of funding targeted at increasing the State owned housing stock.  We call for the dividends paid to Government from Housing NZ to be directed to an immediate recapitalisation for increasing the housing stock, rather than going into the consolidated fund.  Recent evidence reported on RNZ (18 May, 2016) indicated that the State owned stock currently falls 20,000 houses short of per capita provision in 1991.  The overall housing stock is well short of the need for housing, particularly for people living on low incomes.

We note the increased taxation on tobacco while many of the other harmful substances which carry high social and health costs, such as alcohol and sugar, have not been targeted for increased taxes.

We applaud the investment in Te Reo Maori to strengthen the use of this official language.

It is extraordinary to see that the Government is investing more than 3 times the amount allocated to supporting pressing areas of social deprivation in new military spending.  This spending reflects the ideological direction this Government is taking.

We the undersigned, call on the Government to reject the current pathway to destruction of our common good communities and society that is underpinned by neo-liberal economic policies.

letter delivered

A budget of bugger all

The pool of resources being spent on the welfare for the most vulnerable in our communities is not getting any larger – yet the needs in our communities have expanded.  At the post budget lunch last week, Alan Johnson from the Salvation Army reflected on the actual realities of the budget, providing the 70 attendees with a critical perspective different to the political spin hitting our mainstream news media.

The Minister of Finance has capped welfare spending at approximately 30% of the budget. Superannuation is funded out of this welfare spending. The Prime Minister has made it clear that the current government will be retaining all superannuation entitlements. As the population ages, more and more people will be claiming their superannuation entitlements and this will mean that there is less and less money available for other welfare recipients. There is a conversation that needs to be had about the distribution of welfare spending and some personal challenges for more privileged people  claiming their superannuation benefits.

The government’s spending on income related rent subsidies and accommodation supplements has increased significantly over the last year and is expected to increase significantly over the following years if the current trajectory of government spending holds. There is a concerted push by central government to push people our of State Housing into the private rental market with assistance. This is effectively a transfer of wealth from tax payers to private landlords.

The government has not reviewed the regional cap on the accommodation supplement – this is concerning to us in the Waikato because over the past year, for example, the average rent in Hamilton increased 5%. Without increases in the accommodation supplement, people who rent are effectively required to find this additional money themselves. In a low wage economy, with restricted welfare spending, increased accommodation costs would simply be too much for some families, households and individuals.

This budget represents an extension of the neoliberal agenda – a push to market provision and the ongoing erosion of the Welfare State. Poverty Action Waikato is advocating for increased investment in State Housing and a social welfare system that recognises our shared vulnerabilities. We need a system that meets needs and that prioritises the common good. For more of our suggested actions, based on the stories of the social service sector in Hamilton, please read our latest report – Neglect and Nurture.