The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services is disappointed that the Labour Government have missed an opportunity to make this Christmas the best that New Zealand children living in poverty have ever had.
“NZCCSS is incredibly disappointed with the Prime Minister’s decision to reject the call by 59 NGOs to increase benefit levels before Christmas.” said NZCCSS Executive Officer Trevor McGlinchey today.
Yesterday the New Zealand Council of Social Services – which represents Christian social service NGOs and includes 17 Anglican agencies and 7 Pākehā dioceses – joined a nationwide group of 59 social services agencies calling on the Government to restore income support to liveable levels – before Christmas 2020.
In their open letter to the new Labour Government, the NGOs pointed out how low incomes and high housing costs have locked more and more families and their children into poverty over the last thirty years.
“We want every child in Aotearoa to experience a thriving and happy childhood. But right now, hundreds of thousands of children are constrained by poverty, despite parents’ best efforts,” they wrote.
NZCCSS points out that sadly when the Prime Minister claims children in poverty are $100 in family income better off, she is not counting the $100 average rise in rents that families have faced over the last three years.
The open letter from people who work with families of children locked in poverty every day reminds Government that with the impact of COVID-19, they are seeing more parents recently out of work. Those parents will now join the many people doing it hard who already faced a Christmas with little earthly means to celebrate in 2020.
The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services know how much poverty limits their clients’ lives, and they know the Government could choose to permanently shift children out of poverty by backing a policy of liveable incomes for all.
The NGOs believe that restoring income support to a living rate would have been a beautiful way for the Government to bring children in poverty their best earthly gift this Christmas – the gift of removing the constraints of poverty on their families and so allowing them to thrive.
The NZCCSS stands by their request for the new Government to move toward restoring a policy of income support that leaves no child in poverty – either for this Christmas, or any other.
The full open letter from 59 social service groups around Aotearoa New Zealand follows in full below:
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To: Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, Minister for Child Poverty Reduction,
Hon Carmel Sepuloni Minister of Social Development and Employment
Deputy Prime Minister Hon Grant Robertson, Minister of Finance
Dear Jacinda, Carmel and Grant,
No matter who we are or where we live we know that our wellbeing is connected with those around us.
When everyone has what they need to look after themselves and fully participate in their communities we all flourish.
We want every child in Aotearoa to experience a thriving and happy childhood. But right now, hundreds of thousands of children are constrained by poverty, despite parents’ best efforts.
We’ve had a long period of low wages and high housing costs. For decades, Governments have underinvested in key public services that build well-being in all our communities., like public housing and income support.
Many governments have prioritised policies that help the already well-off, including people who make money from housing.
As a result, too many parents are under-resourced, overstressed, and unable to give their children real opportunities to thrive.
Now due to ongoing COVID-19 fallout, more families are being pushed into poverty.
Unemployment has risen at a record-breaking pace – already increasing by nearly a third in the three months up to September. Foodbanks and youth homelessness services are reporting huge increases in demand. By Christmas, it’s expected Work and Income will have allocated over 2.5 million hardship grants and advances this year alone.
The situation is urgent. As the new Government, you can release the growing constraints on individuals, families and children.
We are calling on you to life on of the biggest limitations on whānau and child well-being: not having enough income.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, you acted quickly to set up the COVID income relief payment, which is nearly twice the amount of the usual jobseeker benfit. You showed us that you understand that current benefit levels are insufficient and lock families and children into poverty – an issue that affects all of us.
Now we are asking you to apply the same common sense approach to income support. To make sure everyone, whether they are working, caring for cildren, living with a disability or illness, learning or have lost their jobs before or because of COCID-19, has a liveable income.
Doing so will help achieve you vision of making Aotearoa the best place to be a child.
Before the election, the Labour Party has consistently said there’s more work to be done to lift families out of poverty. You now have the mandate and opportunity to do so.
Please increase income support before Christmas.
Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers
Auckland Action Against Poverty
Auckland City Mission
Auckland Women’s Centre
Beneficiaries & Unwaged Worker Trust
Beneficiary Advocacy Services Christchurch
Benefit Rights Service
Brainwave Trust Aotearoa
CCS Disability Action
Child Poverty Action Group
Citizens Advice Bureau
Community Housing Aotearoa
Community Networks Aotearoa
Disabled Person’s Assembly
Hutt Valley Benefit Education Service Trust (BEST)
Kore Hiakai Zero Hunger Collective
Manawatū Tenants’ Union
Māngere East Family Services
Mental Health Foundation
National Council of Women
New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services
New Zealand Council of Trade Unions
New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations
Ngā Tāngata Microfinance
NZ Disability Advisory Trust
NZ Accessibility Advisory Trust
NZEI Te Riu Roa
Pacific Women’s Watch NZ
Public Issues Network: Methodist Church
Public Service Association
Save the Children
Sisters of Mercy Wiri
Social Justice Group of the Auckland Anglican Diocese
St Anne’s Pantry
St Matthews in the City
Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga: National Network of Family Violence Services
Tick for Kids
Tokona Te Raki
United Community Action Network
Urban Neighbours of Hope
We Are Beneficiaries
Wesley Community Action
Whānau Āwhina Plunket