30 Sep 2018

Greens campaign for sanction free welfare system

6:55 am on 30 September 2018

The Greens are renewing calls for welfare reform that were over-shadowed by former co-leader Metiria Turei's admission of benefit fraud last year.

Marama Davidson

The Green Party is calling for a compassionate approach to social welfare. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The party is campaigning for a sanction-free welfare system, where compassion rules the safety-net for vulnerable New Zealanders.

At the Greens' conference in 2017, Mrs Turei mapped out a plan to completely change the way beneficiaries were treated by the government.

In the same speech, she admitted lying to the government in order to receive more money in welfare support because she was struggling to raise her daughter on her own.

She defended her decision to reveal those struggles to the hilt, even after she resigned as a Member of Parliament.

New co-leader Marama Davidson said it was important she continued this work and she was proud to do so.

"We're very clear that we cannot address inequality, or climate change, without ensuring that people are able to live with dignity. That's key. So this is a long-standing position and passion for the Green Party."

Ms Davidson will kick-start the party's plan to "put the heart back into the welfare system" in Auckland this afternoon, before heading to Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch this week to do the same.

Green MP Jan Logie said they had a responsibility, as part of the Greens' confidence and supply agreement with Labour, to transform the welfare system.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni is reviewing and overhauling the welfare system.

The Greens wanted to ensure access to entitlements, remove excess sanctions and review Working For Families, Ms Logie said.

"We want to hear from locals in Auckland and beyond about how removing sanctions and increases in support would help, so that everyone can lead a good life," Ms Logie said.

"We want the community to get involved and tautoko this historic opportunity."

The party's own policy includes increases to benefits - particularly for low-income parents with children - and removing all of the financial penalties and sanctions currently in place for failing drug tests, not showing up for appointments, or not applying for jobs.

Ms Davidson said they wanted to change what had become "entrenched disadvantage", particularly among Māori and Pasifika communities, women, and people with disabilities.

"For decades, successive governments have allowed our social safety net to stagnate and have also deliberately eroded it, meaning individuals, families and children don't have enough and Kiwis moving in and out of work are worse off," Ms Davidson said.

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