17 Dec 2017

NZ welfare safety net starting to unravel - report

6:12 am on 17 December 2017

New Zealand's welfare system grinds people down and entrenches poverty, says the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)in a new report.

Volunteers sort food at the City Mission

Foodbanks can't meet the growing demand from beneficiaries, according to the new report. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

It says the welfare safety net has become increasingly frayed, creating a country that is "almost unrecognisable to those who grew up here in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s".

The report - Further fraying of the welfare safety net - has been released today, and looks at changes to the welfare system since 2008 and their consequences.

Read the full report online here.

It said it was not unusual for families to now be living in their car, in someone else's garage or in a substandard boarding house. It also found foodbanks were unable to meet the soaring demands from beneficiaries and, increasingly, the working poor.

Susan St John.

Susan St John. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

CPAG spokesperson Susan St John said recent governments had failed beneficiaries and lost sight of their objective to meet the immediate needs for people who fall on hard times.

She said the benefits were "no longer adequate", meaning those needing support were required to apply for multiple supplementary assistance to stay afloat. This created process that was stigmitising and complex for beneficiaries.

The welfare state has been undermined so much that it was failing families or individuals that fell on hard times, said Ms St John.

"We've had a whole raft of policy changes during those nine years and cumulatively it's been a bit like a frog in a beaker of warming water and something perhaps people haven't been aware of, or not aware of the whole picture."

She hoped the new government would "urgently" review the welfare system.

"The magnitude of the task ahead to stitch up the safety net after such an onslaught must not be underestimated."

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