The Government’s recently announced Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy is frustratingly light on detail, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“Despite the positive intentions of the strategy, there appears to be little that will result in material change for the most vulnerable Kiwi kids.
“This Government has no plan for how to help children in need now. The Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy contains many platitudes but few concrete ways to make a difference for struggling New Zealanders.
“The Prime Minister has talked big about combatting child poverty, but we’re almost two years into this Government’s tenure and there are 4,000 more children living in poverty than when she came into office.
“The cost of living continues to rise, rents are up $50 per week, and prices at the pump are putting even more pressure on families.
“We can see that families are doing it tough and more of them are receiving hardship grants and benefit advances than ever. When it’s this Government’s policies that are driving up the cost of living, assistance that’s quickly wiped out by those cost increases seems like a hollow promise.
“This strategy says lots about providing support but doesn’t say what form that support will take, where it’s going to be targeted, or how it will be rolled out. How do we know it’s going to go to the kids who need it most?
“National provided practical help for families in need, from childcare assistance to help with transport and programmes to assist parents in returning to work.
“We trusted communities to make the decisions that were best for them, rather than blanket strategies that don’t respond the unique circumstances and needs of each family.
“Our social investment approach gave targeted support to individuals and was transforming lives, dealing with the causes of dysfunction rather the symptoms. This Labour-led Government has failed to deliver for the Kiwi kids and families who need them most.”
Grant Robertson’s comments have confirmed the Labour-led Government’s true approach to social welfare, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“Mr Robertson yesterday said that ‘people who want to work should be able to’. Carmel Sepuloni then indicated in Parliament that she agreed with him. This just underlines Labour’s attitude that being on benefit can be a lifestyle choice.
“National believes those who can work, should work.
“The numbers show the Government’s going soft on social welfare. Since the Labour-led Government came into office, there are 15,500 more people on a jobseeker benefit and 3,300 fewer sanctions being imposed. The clue is in the name: jobseekers are supposed to be seeking jobs.
“Labour can’t claim to be the party of the workers if it’s supporting people who simply don’t want to work and expect to rely on the generosity of the taxpayer.
“Working is the best route out of poverty, and gives people the opportunity to live better lives.
“At the end of the day, benefits are funded by taxpayers’ money for the purpose of helping people who need it to get back on their feet. The funds should be targeted towards those who do need them, rather than those who can work, but won’t.”
The number of children living in benefit dependent households has increased by 8,000 in just over a year despite the Government’s commitment to halve child poverty in ten years, National’s Social Development Spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“The Prime Minister pledged in March 2018 – when the number of children in benefit dependent households was 168,000 – that she would reduce the number of children in poverty by 70,000 over three years.
“Instead, the number of children in benefit-dependent households has gone up, reaching 176,000 in the June quarter of this year.
“That’s the result of almost 15,500 more New Zealanders on a jobseeker benefit since the Labour-led Government came into office.
“If the Prime Minister is serious about tackling child poverty, why is she content for the number of families dependent on benefits to rise?
“What’s more, the Labour-led Government’s policies have pushed up the cost of living. Skyrocketing rents, fuel prices on the rise – these increases in day-to-day costs are directly attributable to the policies of this Government.
“Almost half a million hardship grants have been issued in the past year. Families are struggling. It isn’t kind or caring to pile on new taxes that drive up prices and hit the poorest Kiwis hardest.
“The best way out of poverty is through work. Benefits are a short-term measure to help people get back on their feet, not a long-term solution.
“National’s Better Public Service Targets focussed on the areas of education, health and crime, and successfully reduced the number of children living in material hardship.
“New Zealand’s most vulnerable families deserve the tangible results and evidence-based policies that will give them a route out of poverty and the opportunity to live better lives.”
The Prime Minister’s feted Mana in Mahi programme is looking more and more like a flop as the Government scrambles to scale it back, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“After announcing in August last year that she would fund 4000 places on the Mana in Mahi programme, this has now been scaled back to 2000 places over four years. At the same time, the number of 18 to 24-year-olds on a jobseeker benefit has increased to over 27,000.
“What was supposed to be a transformative programme for young people is a flop. Making less than half of the proposed places available shows that the Government lacks confidence in the policy.
“We can see why in the numbers. Of the 247 participants so far, just 168 remain – a drop-out rate of 32 per cent.
“Work is a route out of poverty that allows people the chance to live better lives, but this Government has shown once again that they just haven’t done the hard yards in making sure the programme is a success.
“National understands the importance of wrap-around services for young people as they start out in their working lives. An increase of over 5000 young people on jobseeker benefits is a failure for young, vulnerable Kiwis.
“Mana in Mahi could be the Government’s next KiwiBuild.”
The Labour-led Government’s flagship programme to help young people off a benefit and into work is letting our most vulnerable youth down, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“Of the 247 participants so far, only 168 remained in the Mana in Mahi programme as of 30 June this year. This is a 32 per cent drop-out rate in what the Government had promised would be a path to sustainable, long-term work.
“When I asked Minister Sepuloni about this, she was unconcerned by the fact that the programme was failing almost a third of young people who had been relying on it to improve their lives.
“32 per cent is simply too high. National is aspirational for young people and wants them to experience the opportunities brought by employment.
“Young people on benefits require wrap-around services to get back on their feet. When National was in power, we initiated He Poutama Rangitahi which provided high levels of pastoral care to support young people into their first job ever and re-connected them with education and training, creating opportunities and allowing them to live better lives.
“This Government has already seen a 17 per cent increase in the number of 18 to 24-year-olds on a benefit, so there are now over 27,000 young people on benefit. It is even more critical that work initiatives do allow young people to succeed.
“If the Government has no plan to set targets or make adjustments to the programme as they roll it out to over 2000 more participants, it’s difficult to see how it will give young people the chances they so desperately need.
“It isn’t kind or caring to let young people down.”
An increase of 15,500 people on jobseeker benefits under the Labour-led Government shows that they are not motivated to help New Zealanders into work, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“The Government proudly announced last June that new policies had led to a 23 per cent daily drop in sanctions. They now say that they have not changed Work and Income’s policies.
“What they claim not to see is the direct link between the removal of work obligations and the rise in people receiving benefits.
“If the Minister isn’t going to encourage people into work and more fulfilling lives, she should rename the Jobseeker Support benefit, because its recipients are no longer obliged to look for jobs.
“The Government lacks ambition for young people, with 17 per cent more 18 to 24-year-olds claiming Jobseeker Support in the past year. This is clear evidence that this Government isn’t investing in helping young people improve their lives.
“The Government also says it wants to end poverty. If that’s the case, they should be making every effort to reduce the number of benefit-dependent households.
“Benefits are an important safety net, but 8000 more Kiwis were dependent on Jobseeker Support for more than 12 months this June than in September 2017. Benefits are becoming a long-term trap.
“National supports New Zealanders to be aspirational. We believe the best way out of poverty is through work.
“That this Government is responsible for such a large rise in the number of people on a jobseekers’ benefit while employers are crying out for workers shows its claims of kindness and care to be hollow words.”
The considerable rise in the number of people on jobseeker benefits this winter shows that the Labour-led Government is short-changing New Zealanders, National’s Social Development Spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“The number of people on the benefit while looking for work has increased by over 15,500 since this Government took office. If unemployment is so low and the economy is so strong like the Government claims it is then New Zealanders would expect this figure to be falling.
“It’s clear this Government takes pride in the fact there are more people relying on benefits to survive. National is more aspirational for Kiwis and when employers are crying out for more workers there shouldn’t be more New Zealanders lining up for benefits.
“The most proven way out of poverty is through work, and the rise in the number of people receiving benefits shows that Labour is failing to move people out of poverty. It’s incomprehensible that the number on jobseeker benefits continues to rise as businesses consistently report staff shortages.
“The Government has also imposed 30 per cent fewer sanctions and created more and more dependence on the taxpayer. Sanctions are only imposed if someone fails to turn up for a job interview or work obligations several times.
“The cost of living has dramatically increased under this Government, and this is reflected in almost half a million hardship grants being issued in the past 12 months. More and more New Zealanders are struggling to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.
“If the Prime Minister is serious about tackling child poverty, why is she content for the number of families dependent on benefits to continue to rise?
“It isn’t kind or caring to reduce incentives to work and to stop Kiwis being more aspirational and living more meaningful lives. National believes New Zealanders are better off in work and creating opportunities for them and their families.
“New Zealanders can’t afford this Government.”
Absentee fathers are being let off the hook following the Botched Budget, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“The Coalition Government is hell bent on giving absentee fathers a free pass by repealing what used to be known as Section 70A, which is a sanction for sole parents who do not identify the liable parent of the child.
“The Government is basically absolving those parents of their financial responsibilities through this legislation, but that has been a theme from this Government as it has gone soft on sanctions since coming into office.
“National understands that there are times when it’s not appropriate to name the father for safety reasons and other circumstances, that’s why there are exemptions. But when a father can pay child support, he should.
“Beneficiary numbers are up by 13,000 since the election and that’s predicted to keep rising. Jobseeker Support and the emergency benefit are expected to rise by 15,600, with an increased cost of $122 million, while Sole Parent Support benefit recipients are expected to increase by 1,600 at an increased cost of $195 million.
“An increase in the number of people on benefit and children in benefit dependent homes will make it harder for the Government to improve the wellbeing of our most vulnerable children. People are better off when they are in paid work so they can live independent lives and provide a better future for their children.
“At the same time as predicting benefit number increases, the Government is cutting compulsory programmes to assist people into work and they’re reducing funds for childcare assistance.
“This Government doesn’t want what’s best for Kiwis. National believes people deserve a hand up but not a hand out. National would deliver pathways to work so that all New Zealanders have a brighter future.”
A Member’s Bill which would give new mothers more support in the first days after giving birth will this week be put in the Ballot, MP for Taupō Louise Upston says.
“The first few days after giving birth are some of the most important, but can also be the most challenging for new mums.
“National is proposing that new mums should be entitled to three days of care after giving birth, and that support should be available after each child.
“At the moment, new mothers have 48 hours of care funded by DHBs, but we know that they’re often encouraged to leave as soon as possible. This sort of pressure can cause additional stress in what is already a stressful time.
“During the first dew days after birth we know mothers can experience the baby blues, have difficulty breast feeding, can be exhausted and sometimes just need a bit of extra help while they build up confidence.
“We believe mums should have a choice in the kind of care that they opt for, whether that’s in a hospital or at a community or private facility. We would make community care available to all women, no matter where they choose to give birth.
“This policy will cost an additional $16-$20 million. It would also be ring-fenced, meaning if one mother only requires one day in care, her additional two days would be used for another mum who might need a five day stay and the money can’t be put into other areas by DHBs.
“National believes the first thousand days are the most important in a child’s life. We will do all that we can so kids get off to a good start and make sure their parents are supported.”
The Government’s response to the Welfare Expert Advisory Group report is another example of it not delivering in its ‘Year of Delivery’, National’s spokesperson for Social Development Louise Upston says.
“The Welfare Expert Advisory Group recommended 42 extensive changes to the social welfare system but the Government has delivered on just three of them. There are no recommendations about improving outcomes, like having fewer people in benefit dependent households.
“This Government can’t just keep kicking the can down the road when it comes to big decisions.
“National disagrees with the bulk of the report, which would see fewer obligations imposed on beneficiaries and fewer incentives to get back into work. This is just like the Tax Working Group where we’ll have to wait in limbo while the Government decides what it will do.
“This is another case of the Greens being promised action in their coalition agreement and receiving nothing when it comes to delivering on that agreement.
“Increasing the abatement threshold for people on benefits means people can keep more of what they earn. This is a welcome incentive to encourage more people into work.
“National believes that New Zealanders should be given a hand up, not a hand out and those who can work, should.”