INDEPENDENT NEWS

Its feast or fast this Christmas

Published: Tue 17 Dec 2002 11:07 AM
Its feast or fast this Christmas
Low income families face a Christmas of fast, not feast said Green Social Services Spokesperson Sue Bradford.
The latest report from the Council of Christian Social Services for people using foodbanks claimed up to 90 percent of applicants owe money, most often to Work and Income.
"It makes sad reading at Christmas that so many of our most needy families are getting further into cycles of debt they can't escape," said Ms Bradford.
"And how can their children enjoy this time of year when their parents can't afford the necessities of life due to subsistence benefit levels? Many can hardly afford a Christmas tree, much less presents for the kids and food on the table.
"Often a Christmas family feast costs more than beneficiaries can receive in a month, many of whom, the report said, spend more than half their income on housing alone.
"The government must do something to break these cycles of poverty, and what better time than Christmas to share some goodwill? Core benefit levels should be raised now - Labour has had three years to raise benefits to at least pre-1991 equivalent levels," said Ms Bradford.
"This has simply not occurred despite Labour's supposed commitment to social equity."
The Council's Poverty Indicator report says the average household income of people using foodbanks is as low as $184 a week, compared to the New Zealand average of $810.
"Something must be done to close this insurmountable gap so that all these New Zealand families can escape the poverty trap."

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