The Budget and poverty

The glaring gap in this week’s budget was the absence of any measures at all to reduce child poverty, address the causes of poverty or raise the incomes of the poorest kids.

The really nasty thing about the budget was that the absolutely most vulnerable children – newborn babies born into the families most lowest incomes – were deliberately excluded from the small offerings that the budget delivered for other kids.

Good initiatives like free doctors visits for children up to 13, a bit more paid parental leave, and an increase in the parental tax credit, do nothing to raise the incomes of the three out of five kids in poverty whose families are dependent on a benefit. And if these children are aged 6 or under they have the unique privilege of being the only group of children completely unaffected by any increases to budget spending this year.

That’s if their lives don’t get even tougher as a result of this budget.

Social Welfare budget is forecast to reduce by 2.9 percent in 2015 and 4.9 percent in 2016 in real terms (that is after taking into account cost and population pressures) according to Treasury forecasts. * Thanks CTU for crunching the numbers.

Announcements include $100 million over four years for 8,000 places for employment and work readiness services aimed at “getting beneficiaries such as solo parents and the sick into work” according to the Minister.

If this is $100million dollars to help remove barriers to employment for people with disabilities, or to help employers develop family friendly workplaces I’d be happy but sadly it looks as if this is more of the ‘ they could work if they wanted to, we just have to make them want to’ style of ‘support.

This approach does not acknowledge the needs of the vast majority of people with illnesses, disability or family commitments. And it might not be popular to say but actually work, especially low paid/precarious work is not good for everyone.

If the government actually cared about the people who require income support I believe they would be putting efforts towards ensuring everyone is able to access their entitlements and get the support they need –  including the support to get a job  –  but the kind of support that’s relevant, such as guaranteed hours, decent pay and conditions, and great EEO policies.

The welfare reforms have been focussed on reducing the government’s fiscal liability, they don’t consider social security at all. Of course the spin is it’s all about alleviating poverty but if that was true they would be measuring the outcomes to see if that was the result.

We have a myriad of conflicting statistics, that show large numbers of people ”coming off benefit” and static unemployment levels, and nothing from Income Support about what happens to people once they stop getting income support.

Child Poverty in New Zealand has doubled since the 80s even though working for Families significantly reduced child poverty for children whose parents were in work.

Both of these things tell us that  poverty is amenable to policy intervention; income support rates above the poverty rate, EEO policies, collective bargaining and strong employment laws would all significantly reduce child poverty.

Sadly there is nothing in this budget to reduce the causes of poverty or raise the incomes of those in the midst of it.

5 thoughts on “The Budget and poverty

  1. @ SPC

    This is what Jan wrote:
    “If this is $100million dollars to help remove barriers to employment for people with disabilities, or to help employers develop family friendly workplaces I’d be happy but sadly it looks as if this is more of the ‘ they could work if they wanted to, we just have to make them want to’ style of ‘support.

    This approach does not acknowledge the needs of the vast majority of people with illnesses, disability or family commitments. And it might not be popular to say but actually work, especially low paid/precarious work is not good for everyone.”

    I agree with Jan. Sadly you do not know what is behind the welfare reforms when it comes to their new approach towards sickness, injury and disability.

    There is actually a degree of insincerity in the government’s many claims they want to “help” those on benefits overcoming “barriers”. It is window dressing talk, and there is not much honest effort behind it:

    ‘WORK ABILITY ASSESSMENTS DONE FOR WORK AND INCOME – PARTLY FOLLOWING ACC’s APPROACH: A REVEALING FACT STUDY’

    http://accforum.org/forums/index.php?/topic/16092-work-ability-assessments-done-for-work-and-income-%E2%80%93-partly-following-acc%E2%80%99s-approach-a-revealing-fact-study/

    http://accforum.org/forums/index.php?/topic/15463-designated-doctors-%e2%80%93-used-by-work-and-income-some-also-used-by-acc/

    http://accforum.org/forums/index.php?/topic/15188-medical-and-work-capability-assessments-based-on-the-bps-model-aimed-at-disentiteling-affected-from-welfare-benefits-and-acc-compo/

  2. Thanks Jan,

    for your great speech in Parliament on the Budget the other day, where you raised the many challenges and issues sick and disabled face under this horrible government! I know too many that struggle as it is, to pay very basic living costs on their limited fixed incomes. The way the Key, English and Bennett government cut back, has capped, or otherwise restricted things that should be covered by the Disability Allowance is shameful.

    Keep up the good work, many out here look up with hope and trust to you representing their concerns.

    Best wishes Marc

  3. SPC I agree the free healthcare measure for children up to 13 is fantastic. It lacks an appropriate context though as a care driver for illness in children is as you reference our cold damp houses and also poverty which results in children being cold, underfed and all too often living in crowded environments.
    Also this measure won’t significantly reduce poverty for the poorest as all too often doctors visits are seen as a nice to have and things get left until it becomes time for A&E. I applaud the measure for shifting that but it won’t put much if any money in the hands of those families.

  4. The “good initiative”, regarding free medical access for children aged 6-13 is a “measure” to address child poverty – and as it is universal it does include children with parents on benefits.

    The lack of movement on the WOF for rental property is of course the glaring oversight in terms of reducing the poverty of living in unhealthy homes.

    Investing in the work capability of those being required to look for work is appropriate, and not something that the government should be criticised for. Just ask government to also assist in making workplaces safe (and rewarding) for those required to be available for work.

  5. I think it is time we started talking about parents not kids income and strengthen the rights of workers. The risk is that when we focus on children,we forget that poor children have poor parents and that most parents want to be able to provide for their own children. I agree that this budget does not address the causes of poverty, children’s or adults, and the best way to lift families out of poverty is to strengthen unions.

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