Labour turns back to senior citizens’ struggle

Labour’s refusal to back a law change to allow senior citizens to receive superannuation payments if they are stuck overseas due to Covid-19 restrictions demonstrates their kindness mantra is hollow, National’s Social Development and Employment spokesperson, Hon Louise Upston says.

“Under the current law superannuation payments can be stopped if someone is offshore for more than 30 weeks. However, National proposed allowing superannuation payments to continue where people are stuck overseas due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“The potential to lose superannuation payments has caused significant stress and uncertainty for our senior citizens who are being kept from returning to New Zealand through no fault of their own. For many, superannuation payments are their sole source of income.

“The Ministry of Social Development eventually said applications for exemptions would be considered on a case by case basis after senior citizens drew their plight to public attention. Having been first brushed off by Government officials, they shouldn’t have had to go to the media to get a response.

“The current law presumes people have the choice of when to return to New Zealand and this is obviously not case in the Covid-19 environment. Our proposed law change would have made it explicit that superannuation payments can continue without the need to undergo a stressful application process.

“Senior citizens are not responsible for the fact so many New Zealanders are trapped overseas waiting for the MIQ lottery in order to return. Responsibility for this debacle lies squarely at the Government’s feet.

“If the wellbeing of our senior citizens was the Government’s priority, they would have bought this amendment themselves months ago when seniors first approached ministers. It is worse that they have rejected our attempts to help our over 65s.

“Labour’s unwillingness to back this amendment has left seniors to fend for themselves and beg for the superannuation they have earned after years of paying tax in New Zealand.”