21 Oct 2014

Struggling families eager for relief

5:31 am on 21 October 2014

Families struggling to survive say higher wages and greater compassion from government agencies would make their lives a little easier.

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Prime Minister John Key has made child poverty a priority for his third term government.

Ministry of Social Development documents released to Radio New Zealand last week said if the Government wants to reduce poverty it needs to lift incomes.

But officials dismissed any suggestion the Government should give more money to struggling families to help them out.

Adrian Tikaram is a solo father living in Papatoetoe in Auckland, with three daughters aged five, eight and 12.

Mr Tikaram stopped working when he gained full-time custody of the girls several years ago and the family survive on his benefit. He said after rent and bills there is just $120 each week to buy food and everything else they need.

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Their meals are plain - rice, home-made bread, cheap meat cuts and frozen mixed vegetables - and the girls sometimes have breakfast at school.

"They're happy and healthy but they're missing out on a lot."

Mr Tikaram said he wants Work and Income to understand his choice to stay at home for his children until they are a bit older, but is under pressure now to go back to work.

Tony Mudgway does have a job, working full-time at a wool spinners in Whanganui. But his wage - less than $17 an hour - means he is left with about $200 after he has paid the mortgage and bills.

That has to cover groceries, transport and other necessities for himself, his partner and their four-year-old daughter.

"You come home and all your bills are piling up. We try to put money into those accounts so they come out each week, [but] there's times when your power one, that fluctuates. So you might be paying $30 a week but then they'll ring up and say that's not enough, you've got to pay more."

Mr Mudgway said help with wages and the cost of living would make life a little bit easier.

"A proper living wage would be good. I'd like to see GST come off some of the food. We get by, but it's a struggle at times," he said.

The manager of the Vaiola Pacific Island Budgeting Service in Mangere, Vai Harris, says many of her clients can budget - the problem is that they simply do not have enough money to pay for everything.

"I've got a family, both of them are on call and both of them are [on] $14.25 an hour. The husband has to work 51 hours in order to get $600 a week. Their rent is $400."

Mrs Harris says the Government's first priority should be lifting the minimum wage to $17 or $18 an hour.

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