Telling the stories of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia

Budget gives help, misses chances

The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services has welcomed new social service funding for food banks, anti-violence work and housing in the Government’s Budget 2020, but says benefit rates and funding inequality still need attention.

Taonga News  |  20 May 2020

Executive Officer of the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services Trevor McGlinchey has welcomed the new social funding in Budget 2020 released last week.

“This new funding will provide services to those who are severely affected by the economic downturn will be a great help to those who suffer Covid-19 related hardship.” he said.

NZCCSS members will be able to use the social funding to help people struggling in the coronavirus downturn through extra support for:

• Food Distribution

$32 million for

- community food organisations including food banks, food rescue and lunches in schools.

- a proposed National Food Distribution network that will collect food from producers and deliver it to the areas where it is needed for families

• Family Violence prevention and response

$211.6 Million towards Family Violence response and prevention to meet an expected increase in violence due to the stressors of the coronavirus’ economic impact

• Public Housing 

for 6,000 “State houses” and 2000 transition houses.

• Social services

Newly available funds are available across Oranga Tamariki and the Ministry of Social Development

Trevor McGlinchey said that the new funding will help NGO, iwi/Māori and faith-based social services respond to increasing needs in the coronavirus recovery period, especially in food services and housing.

However, NZCCSS is disappointed that the structural change to end poverty at the roots of the country’s welfare system has not been addressed.

“The Budget has maintained the benefit status quo, with only minor increases, as a result of this lack of change, many more New Zealanders will experience poverty and hardship”, said McGlinchey. 

“If the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) recommendations had been implemented, whānau would need less support as they would be self-sufficient.” he said.

“There would be less need for all social services if benefit payments were set at a level that allowed recipients to live in dignity.”

NZCCSS members working with families struggling to keep their heads above water report that current benefit levels mean people are constantly having to get additional special needs grants and loans from Work and Income just to get by, or worse, take out loans from unscrupulous high-cost lenders.

“These loans mean people on benefits get further and further into debt and less and less able to live with dignity.”

“If Government prioritised the recommendations of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group that would mean benefits in Aotearoa New Zealand would be based on calculations of what it actually costs to live. This is the kind of structural change we would like to see.” said McGlinchey.

Social agencies see continued cost pressures

Meanwhile, NZCCSS takes note of the missed opportunity in this budget to provide a more equal funding footing for NGO social service agencies.

The Government did not choose a fairer deal on funding levels that would allow NGO social services to match Government social service workers’ pay rates. 

“There is a big divide between what Oranga Tamariki and DHBs pay their social work and other staff, versus what government funding levels allow the NGO, iwi/Māori and faith-based service sector to pay their staff.” said Trevor McGlinchey.

 “This means NGOs struggle to keep their staff who leave for higher paying jobs in the government sector.  The Budget has not addressed this difference, nor has it addressed the inequalities in funding that have continued since before the Global Financial Crisis."