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.

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Writing back to the Hamilton community about Neglect and Nurture

 

In the report, Writing back to the Hamilton community about…Neglect and Nurture (2016), Anna Casey-Cox and Rose Black interviewed people working in 16 Hamilton community and social service organisations. The report reflects the observations of those who participated about how neglect and nurture operates in Hamilton and offers insights for building a responsible society.

Participants pointed out that people utilising services are struggling to access income, food and accommodation needed to live. To address this it was suggested that a combination of good policies, effective action and services underpinned by the values of manaakitanga, collaboration, unconditional love and interdependence are essential for enabling society to flourish. Community houses and centres are highly valued resources, offering an essential point of contact for people in need. In many cases, community and social service providers have to go beyond the call of duty, so as to ensure people are accessing the best possible all round care and support.

“Walking alongside someone in need in a holistic way is valuable work that is time intensive and under resourced in our community”.

Consequently, the report suggests greater investment in community centres, community houses and advocacy services. Thus ensuring that our most vulnerable populations have access to resources and the time and space to self-nurture and care for one another. By prioritising people and communities, Hamilton as a city will also flourish.

Go to our Latest Reports Page for the full copy of the report.