Prue Hyman says please make a submission right now to make the welfare system fairer for low income families.
She says: “You only have until Friday, November 9th, to get in a submission to the Welfare Expert Advisory Group on how you think the welfare system can be improved – please do even a very short one.
Outrage over WINZ
There is a lot of outrage out in the community about how low-income people are treated at WINZ, especially if they are Maori or Pacific, refugees or with particular difficulties or disabilities. And of course the system itself is grossly inadequate.
The Advisory Group is a genuinely listening set of people. Some of them have credentials of having been through the systems themselves and there are more lefties and union people than is usual in these reviews.
Well done to the government for their appointment process, though I sigh about the number of reviews and the right noises being made while it is much slower to actually make the necessary changes.
This review reports at the end of February 2019 and then there’s the budget processes and Grant Robertson’s ongoing fixation on balanced budgets so I don’t have huge confidence in rapid changes. But I expect the Group to advocate for real improvements, helped by all our submissions, so then we can pressure government to implement them.
Heartfelt stories from Porirua
I went to one of the many Advisory Group consultation sessions – in Porirua – and was moved by the heartfelt stories of benefit inadequacy, bad treatment by the system, and the need for change told by many local people. They are hearing the same messages from 16 locations round the country.
So what is really needed to make welfare fit for families? The Child Poverty Action Group is indefatigable in its research and submissions focusing primarily on its core aim of eliminating child poverty. Its Welfare Fit for Families campaign promotes 17 practical recommendations. Among its key ones to meet income adequacy are the need to:
- Substantially improve core benefits;
- Remove harsh sanctions that impact on children;
- Ensure that all benefits and all part of Working for Families (WFF) are indexed annually to prices and wages;
- Remove the hours of paid work criteria from the WFF In-Work Tax Credit and extend it to all low-income families;
- Treat adults in the benefit system as individuals without penalising them for being in a partnership;
- Focus on what will give children better outcomes and less on moving their carers into paid work;
- Ensure that applicants receive all the assistance to which they are entitled.
There is some hope that the Government will listen. Minister Carmel Sepuloni in appointing the group said: “It is important that the Advisory Group hears New Zealanders’ views on our welfare
system, what is working well and what isn’t, what level of support should be available and what values should underpin New Zealand’s welfare system,”
There’s a survey you can fill in at http://www.weag.govt.nz about what’s good and bad about the current system and what values should underpin it. If time is short, do that at least.
Ensuring access and fairness
“The Welfare Expert Advisory Group has been brought together to ensure that New Zealand has a welfare system that is accessible and fair for all New Zealanders; a welfare system that ensures people have an adequate income and standard of living, are treated with and can live in dignity and are able to participate meaningfully in their communities.
There are inequities that need to be addressed in ways that will treat people more fairly and also encourage them to be earning, learning, caring or volunteering, thereby ensuring a better future for all New Zealanders.”
Too right. I still have a slight yen for proper investigation of a more major change with the implementation of a universal basic income. But that is far away at present, at least at the rate which would be necessary for real adequacy.
So let’s at least improve greatly the current system along the lines CPAG advocates.
And let’s also focus on the biases in the system against Maori, Pacific, refugee and other disadvantaged minority groups and let’s value properly unpaid and voluntary work, done mainly by women,