CPAG joins call from budget advisors for Govt to increase benefits urgently
Budgeting services cannot help people who do not have enough income to meet even their basic needs, says Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)
As New Zealanders, we all agree that children should be able to live good lives, and have all the support they need to
thrive. But families suffering hardship in our country are being forced to navigate difficult and stressful processes to
access supplementary assistance for basic needs such as food. Obtaining advance benefit payments and recoverable grants
creates debt to Work and Income, with repayments meaning less income than before, reinforcing hardship in a vicious
cycle of hopelessness.
"Work and Income are referring many people, who apply for supplementary assistance, back to agencies for budgeting
assistance and mentoring. But those at the coalface of these services are very clear that it is lack of income, not lack
of ability to budget that is causing the hardship," says Associate Professor Susan St John, CPAG’s Economics Advisor.
"It is a destructive, frustrating, time-consuming and unacceptable situation. Poverty in New Zealand is a national
crisis, with deprivation affecting children with devastating long-term costs to them and to society. Our paediatricians
are seeing abnormally high rates of poverty-related diseases and children with multiple learning issues. This is not a
country that is the best place in the world for bringing up children."
CPAG was hopeful that 2019 would have been the year of change, and that poverty would not be, once again, a major
"We urge Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has made reducing child poverty a major aim of her Government, to make the
bold changes children desperately need," says St John.
CPAG says the Government has a responsibility to counter the negative and uninformed narrative about people on benefits
and to show true leadership in this responsibility.
CPAG calls on the Government to immediately lift benefits, significantly reduce the reliance on supplementary
means-tested payments, and improve the returns to part-time work on the benefit.
Furthermore, CPAG urges the Government to give all low-income families access to the full Working for Families package
for the care of their children. This would cost around $0.5billion per annum and immediately make families on benefits
at least $72.50 a week better off.
"There is absolutely no justification for policy that excludes the worst-off families from a tax credit that has
reducing child poverty as its key aim," says St John.
"It is not good enough to wait for Budget 2020 decisions that will take another full year to come into effect, and only
if the Government is re-elected.
"Action is needed right now."