Green Party Co-leader Marama Davidson is calling for the introduction of a Guaranteed Minimum Income to lift hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty and prevent more families entering into further debt with the Ministry of Social Development.
Official Information Act figures acquired by Auckland Action Against Poverty show that total debt to Work and Income has tripled in five years, to $307 million. The average debt per person has doubled to $1368.
The number of people with debt to Work and Income has increased to 224,479, up from 169,888 over the same time frame.
“People in Aotearoa deserve dignified incomes that allow them to cover their basic expenses. Our current welfare system is dehumanising and leaves too many families requiring special needs grants to cover rent, bills and travel costs,” said Marama Davidson.
“The rapid rate at which New Zealanders are entering debt with the Ministry of Social Development highlights the urgency for an overhaul of our welfare system.
"The Green Party's Poverty Action Plan would give people a Guarantee Minimum Income of at least $325 a week and would lift incomes for families relying on income support so they do not have to enter into debt with Work and Income.
"We are concerned that women and Māori are being made to repay Work and Income debt at a rate of around 30% higher than other groups. The use of discretion by our Government agencies should not result in systemic discrimination. The increased rate of repayments only adds to the existing income gap for women and Māori.
"The Green Party remains the only political party committed to overhauling our welfare system to one that provided unconditional care, instead of punishment.”