New CPAG report: The further fraying of the welfare safety net
New Zealand’s welfare system has undergone a major transformation during the past three decades. This process has
seriously thwarted the original intent of the system, which was to provide a decent standard of living for all New
Zealanders in times of need, according to Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).
In 2017 it is not unusual for families to be living in their cars, in garages, or in substandard boarding houses. Food
banks are unable to meet the soaring demands from not only beneficiaries but, increasingly, the working poor. Private
charities, such as KidsCan and Variety, are overwhelmed by the demand from poor families for basic necessities.
"No one government is solely responsible, but the last nine years have seen some particularly punitive policy
directions. Child poverty has become normalised with 210,000 children now living in households that are below the
stringent 50% after housing costs (AHC) poverty line and 140,000 below the even lower 40% line," says Associate
Professor Susan St John, economics spokesperson for CPAG.
In 2008, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand commissioned the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation of New Zealand to examine and
document changes to the welfare state since 1991. Their report, The unravelling of the welfare safety net, painted a picture of cumulative attacks that by 2008 had seriously undermined the welfare state’s original purpose.
To update this picture, CPAG’s new report, Further fraying of the welfare safety net
documents other damaging changes to the welfare system since 2008.
"The further fraying of the safety net over the past nine years can be described as deliberate, methodical, and part of
a wider plan to reduce state spending, particularly on social welfare, and to create a climate in which welfare
recipients are viewed negatively, as the creators of their own misfortune. The result is that poverty in New Zealand has
become deeply entrenched," says St John, who is co-author of the report.
"The new Government will make some long overdue improvements to family tax credits and a review of the welfare system is
promised. We hope this report aids the understanding of the magnitude of the task ahead. At the outset, a re-statement
of New Zealand’s welfare state purpose and principles is needed to guide a complete overhaul."
CPAG will be holding an event to launch Further fraying of the welfare safety net at the Ellen Melville Centre in
Auckland on 18 December 2017, 12 noon.
Guest speakers from Caritas, the Auckland City Mission and Auckland Action Against Poverty will share insights of real
life consequences of the changes to the welfare system.
We warmly invite all to attend. For more information, please refer to our event page here