“People are hurting and we must act” – A fairer future reveals a seven-point plan to lift families out of poverty

As bureaucrats dance around solutions that could create lasting change for low-income families, tamariki and whānau living in poverty are suffering, advocates say.

Fairer Future, an anti-poverty advocacy group supported by 33 organizations across Aotearoa, released its seven steps for a fairer future plan ahead of the 2022 budget on Monday with the aim of creating lasting change for families. living in the red.

Based on the findings and recommendations of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) Whakamana Tāngata 2019 report, Fairer Future’s plan set out seven policy changes for the Department of Social Development.

This included increasing benefits to living income level, raising minimum wage to living wage level, increasing disability benefits, changing relationship rules for recipients, removing penalties in the system, erasing the debt owed to the ministry and improving access to complementary assistance.

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Dr Huhana Hickey (Ngāti Tāhinga, Whakatōhea), who was a member of WEAG and supports the kaupapa of Fairer Future, said she had written to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Social Development every month since the report was published, the urging increased support for those engaged in the welfare system, but it is not them she must take the plunge.

“It’s not them who are stopping him, it’s their political analysts. It is those in government with seven houses and big wallets who are actively stopping the implementation of WEAG.

Deputy Maori Children's Commissioner Glenis Philip-Barbara says benefits need to increase to keep up with the cost of living.

Monique Ford / Stuff

Deputy Maori Children’s Commissioner Glenis Philip-Barbara says benefits need to increase to keep up with the cost of living.

Deputy Commissioner for Children, Māori Glenis Philip-Barbara (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Uepōhatu), said there were people in power who did not understand the seriousness of the poverty crisis facing the tamariki and their whānau faced, as they see numbers as data points rather than people. hard to get out of it.

“It is very easy in this climate to be isolated from the difficulties in our communities, but everyone sitting in this particular hui today is connected to whānau and the community which we know makes it hard.

“It’s really important that as New Zealanders that this gap doesn’t continue to grow between us and create this mythology that we’re all fine. People are hurting and we need to act.”

While the suffering of whānau was unacceptable, said Philip-Barbara, the social and personal cost of poverty for the tamariki was further heightened.

“The children of this country currently bear an unjust burden of poverty, and not only are they and their whānau suffering today, we are creating for them a future they cannot imagine.”

Children are absent because benefits are not keeping up with inflation, Deputy Commissioner for Children Māori Philip-Barbara said.

Charlotte Caillé / Stuff

Children are absent because benefits are not keeping up with inflation, Deputy Commissioner for Children Māori Philip-Barbara said.

The Tamariki who grow up without essentials and without stability were being set up to expect a hopeless future, where their needs will not be met, Philip-Barbara said.

“We already see that in our mental health statistics we see whānau living with toxic stress, we see children being raised in motels and cars, this is not acceptable for any New Zealander in any corner of this country, and so we need to take action now.

While there is a need to address these issues across the field, issues of inequity in the welfare system were also of concern.

Across Aotearoa, 9% of Pākehā children and their families lived in poverty. For Maori and Pasifika children, that figure was more than double at 20% and 25% respectively, Phillip-Barbara said.

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“The very presence of inequity is evidence of the long tail of colonization,” Philip-Barbara said.

“We are 18 years from 200 years since the signing of Te Tiriti, we now have an opportunity to lift our whānau out of poverty.”

New Zealand Disabled People’s Assembly speaker Nathan Bond said this inequity was also seen in the distribution of disability benefits.

The maximum amount a person can access each week is $70.40, Bond said, but the median average for those who receive it is much lower.

Pāhekā received the highest average weekly payments of $13.65, followed by Maori at $9.70 per week and Pasifika at $6.50.

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That doesn’t even begin to cover the huge costs of taking care of weekly expenses that many recipients require, Bond said.

“And only a fraction of those costs are actually considered disability allowance expenses.

“The reality is that we live in an inaccessible and disabling world, and because of this there are significant additional costs for people with disabilities just to be able to live ordinary lives.

“Fixing a flat minimum rate would go a long way to closing the gap between these ethnic groups and would have a significant impact on people with disabilities.”

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