1 Oct 2018

Marama Davidson: Get Work and Income out of people's personal lives

8:56 am on 1 October 2018

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson says there has never been a better opportunity to transform a punitive and limiting culture of the welfare system.

Marama Davidson

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Speaking to RNZ Ms Davidson said that, while changes to the tax credit system and ditching punitive thresholds for working hours while receiving benefit was essential, it was also important to deliver dignity by getting "Work and Income out of people's personal lives".

She made her comments after the Green Party renewed its campaign for a sanction-free welfare system at a party event in Auckland yesterday. Similar welfare policy meetings will take place in Wellington, Dunedin and Christchurch this week.

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

"There has never been a better opportunity then right now, but this current government and Minister Sepuloni shares that understanding that things have to change, that the culture of punitive approach does not work," Ms Davidson said.

"That's why she has launched the Welfare Expert Advisory Group work, an independent look into how we can do better.

"The Greens have a very clear role to support that work and to keep pushing for truly progressive changes."

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 reform of tax credit system for those claiming benefits was also needed to ensure fairness, as well as removing any humiliating and intrusive obligations imposed on claimants by Work and Income.

"A whole lot of things need to happen, including combining the in-work tax credit and the family tax credit, because it's unfair that some children miss out on the extra income support that would really help, and that extra support is currently based on arbitrary and punitive thresholds for working hours.

"But also, we have to be clear, we are asking Work and Income to get out of people's personal lives, because that plays a massive part in people being able to get on with it and live with dignity and get some real pathways going for all of us helping to improve people's lives."

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