22 June 2016
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.
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.