Govt must review welfare so it's fit for purpose

The Government must commit to a comprehensive review of the welfare system following a report that shows the children of some beneficiaries are being unfairly penalised and are missing out as a result, the Green Party said today.

The Child Poverty Action Group has today published its report The Complexities of “Relationship” in the Welfare System and the Consequences for Children which found that the practice of basing benefit levels around whether a person is in a relationship or not is harming children.

“This report shows that the welfare system is a mess and is failing to meet the purpose it’s there for, which is to provide adequate support for New Zealanders when they’re at their most vulnerable,” Green Party Social development spokesperson Jan Logie said.

“By forcing two parent families with children into the most extreme levels of poverty, the welfare system is putting parents between a rock and a hard place. Either they stay together and their kids miss out on the necessities of life, or they split up in order to get slightly more money. That’s crazy.

“While the current system incentivises couples to split, it also discourages them from working. A 35 cent in the dollar abatement to any money a beneficiary parent earns over $80 is applied on the total income of the couple, not the individual parent, which is completely non-sensical.

“The welfare system is no longer fit for purpose. Benefits have not kept up with the cost of providing for children, and have never been restored since the savage cuts of the early 1990s. There are 35,000 more children in severe child poverty since National came to power in 2008 and those children need urgent financial help if they’re not going to be permanently harmed.

“This report highlights that the emphasis needs to change from what a parent is not entitled to, to what they need for their children to thrive. That should be the focus of any welfare system review,” Ms Logie said.