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.