A poll released today shows 60% of people in New Zealand think the Government should increase income support rates beyond the Budget 2021 increases starting to come into effect today.
The UMR poll was commissioned by a group of 26 organisations under the Fairer Future banner, including unions, social service providers and child poverty experts.
The poll found support for the government to continue to increase income support was largely consistent across salary groups, age ranges, renters and owners; and across the political spectrum.
Bernie Smith, CEO of Monte Cecilia Housing Trust says the $20 increase to core benefits coming into effect today is too little to address the intensifying poverty they see clients at their community housing services enduring.
"Increasing electricity prices alone could be enough to scoop up today’s increases," says Smith. "It was good to see the government take this first step, but right now we’re still playing catch up and there’s a lot of ground left to cover if we want to genuinely lift families out of poverty."
Nick Stoneman of NZ Disability Advisory Trust says both as someone who receives income support and in his work supporting other disabled people to access support, he is worried about the health impacts of income support levels remaining so low.
"We are constantly forced to make decisions between accessing the healthcare we need to stay safe and paying rent. Everyone, whether they are disabled, in paid work, raising children, volunteering or studying should be able to access a liveable income," says Stoneman.
Janet McAllister of Child Poverty Action Group says it is in the Government’s power to release the pressure on whānau and individuals locked in poverty, by ensuring income adequacy.
"We all want our communities to be thriving and happy. This poll shows the majority of people in New Zealand understand the importance of decent income support in realising that vision," says McAllister.
"This poll confirms that as a society we are no longer willing to tolerate the entrenched inequalities our broken welfare system is perpetuating. It shows this government has the social license to deliver on much more meaningful and long lasting change than what was announced at Budget 2021," continued McAllister.
Before COVID-19, New Zealand’s income support levels were the third-lowest in the OECD.
A UMR poll commissioned by the same group in February showed 69% of NZers supported the government increasing income support levels (details of both polls are in the attached UMR report).
In the year leading up to December 2020, StatsNZ found annual inflation for beneficiaries was almost three times higher than for l households.
The March 2021 quarter saw prices rising for both housing and transport, with transport prices rising 3.9 percent - the biggest quarterly rise in over a decade. Rent jumped 1% in just three months nationally, with Auckland in particular seeing its already high rents rise another 2.7%. Electricity prices rose 0.4%.