Is John Key prepared to ask his Social Development Minister to ensure that people are getting the financial support that they need for power this winter? He needs to say whether a welfare system that is driving people into debt is delivering.
New information the Green Party has obtained shows that the Government has forced nearly 60 per cent of beneficiaries into debt to WINZ to survive.
“We need a social security system that ensures that at least people’s basic needs are met,” said Green Party Social Development spokesperson Jan Logie.
“Our data shows benefits are not enough to live on and children are going without good food and warm homes as a result.
Nearly 60 percent of all beneficiaries – 171,000 people – now have a debt to WINZ, of an average of nearly $2500 each. Before National was elected in 2008, just 49 per cent of beneficiaries had a debt to WINZ, and it was closer to $2000.
“Benefits are the bare minimum amounts that a family can survive on. There is frequently nothing left over for essentials such as a WOF for a car. Over time, this can mean that there is not enough money for food, electricity or covering rent. It is unacceptable for a child to sit hungry in a cold house.
“Despite the often heroic budgeting feats managed by beneficiaries, there is a clearly demonstrated need for more money sometimes.
“Debt creates huge and ongoing problems in people’s lives. It is not rational, nor sustainable, for the Government to create a whole new problem in families’ lives, where they are forced to take out loans to the Government to survive.”
More than 23,000 applications have been made for Hardship Assistance for Electricity and Gas in the year ending March 15.
“This cold snap will mean thousands of cold Kiwis are too scared to turn the heater on. The Government must instruct Work and Income to be compassionate and flexible when granting payments to families who come to it needing help to pay the power bill this winter.
“Families who can't afford the power to heat their homes should be given grants to pay their power bill that they do not need to repay, instead of loans that send them into spirals of debt.
“The Government needs to decide, should welfare benefits provide enough for families to survive, or not? No New Zealand child should be expected to go through the winter living in a cold, damp home, that their parents can't afford to heat.”