Today’s State of the Nation report from the Salvation Army shows the Government is continuing to fail the most vulnerable New Zealanders, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“Today’s report shows the number on the dole are up, the social housing wait list has tripled, and seven out of nine child poverty indicators are worse.
“It also highlights worrying increases in children affected by violence. This just isn’t good enough. The government urgently needs to build on the work that National did around family violence while in government.
“The number of Kiwis on the dole is up 27,000 under this Government and today’s report supports our view that not enough is being done to support young people and jobseekers into work. This isn’t surprising after the Government failed to deliver on the Prime Minister’s commitment of 4,000 Mana in Mahi places for young unemployed Kiwis.
“It is also hugely concerning to see that food hardship continues to grow with the government handing out record numbers of food grants, on top of the Salvation Army also handing out more food parcels than they did when National was in government.
“This report shows the consequences of failing to deliver on your promises when it comes to supporting the most vulnerable Kiwis.
“National believes best way out of poverty and dependency is through work.
“We want people to be in charge of their own lives which means supporting them into work so they can earn their own income and aren’t forced to ask for handouts.
“A National Government would give people opportunities to get ahead under their own steam.”
There are now 15,000 more children growing up in benefit dependent homes since Labour took office, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“The Prime Minister promised to halve child poverty, but seven out of nine child poverty indicators have increased under her watch.
“Children who grow up in homes with working caregivers do far better than children in benefit dependent homes. The Government needs to urgently address a problem which is now spiralling out of control on their watch.
“We know children growing up in a benefit dependent home are more likely to be living in poverty, and they’re more likely to have poor educational attainment. The Prime Minister and her Government are all talk and no action. Ms Ardern claims she wants New Zealand to be ‘the best place in the world to be a child’ but things are getting worse under her watch.
“National’s Social Services Discussion Document shows we’re the party with the ideas and ambition to make a real difference to children’s lives, including getting their parents back to work so that fewer children are living in poverty, they achieve more and grow up seeing the importance of earning a living.”
Some beneficiaries are going more than three months without having a meeting to discuss their job search, which shows the Government isn’t doing enough to help Kiwis find work, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni has dropped the ball on welfare, and vulnerable New Zealanders are paying the price.”
“The number of New Zealanders on the dole has skyrocketed to 143,000 under Labour, and the number of meetings between beneficiaries and their case managers to talk about employment has nosedived from more than 200,000 meetings every three months under the previous Government, to just 90,000 now.
“How can Ms Sepuloni be committed to getting Kiwis into ‘meaningful, sustainable work’ when her department can’t even meet with them?
“Part of the problem is the Government’s policies are driving up the cost of living, which means case managers have to devote more time to giving out hardship grants to help struggling Kiwis put food on the table and a roof over their head rather than working on long-term solutions to get them back on their feet.
“National believes the best route out of poverty is through work. If we want to get more Kiwis off the dole then we’ve got to ensure they’re getting the support they need.”
A year after my Bill to protect victims of legally insane offenders was put into the Ballot and nine months after it was drawn, still there’s been no progress, Taupō MP Louise Upston says.
“The Government indicated it supported the changes in my Bill and already had work underway, but there has been no sign of progress.
“Victims should be at the heart of our justice system. That’s why I’m pushing for this Bill, which will rename the verdict of ‘not guilty on account of insanity’, to acknowledge that insane offenders have committed criminal acts.
“It will also ensure that victims of legally insane offenders will be notified if the offender is released from a secure health care facility into the community. Having worked closely with Graeme Moyle and other victims’ advocates, I know this is what victims and their families want.
“National is committed to strengthening the rights of victims. In our Law and Order Discussion Document, we’ve proposed changing the Victim Notification Register from opt in to opt out, to ensure it is easier for victims of crime and their families to be kept informed about offenders.
“The proposals in my Bill will improve victims’ rights and ensure that victims of insane offenders are treated the same as other victims. If the Government was serious about victims of crime they would adopt my Bill and make it law.”
Figures released as part of the Ministry of Social Development annual review show almost half a billion dollars was paid out in hardship grants during the last financial year, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“In the last financial year $480 million was paid out in hardship grants, with each client receiving an average of $1500, however in many cases that’s higher. One individual received 223 hardship grants in the past year totalling $50,000.
“This is a stark reminder of the level of financial hardship Kiwis are feeling as a result of this Government’s policies and shows they’re not investing in long-term solutions to get Kiwis out of poverty.
“New Zealanders are doing it tough under this Labour-led Government. Tax after tax is being piled on, petrol prices and rents are increasing. More and more Kiwis are struggling to put food on the table and a roof over their head.
“National believes the best route out of poverty is through work, but under this Government, Case Managers are spending almost half their time working on hardship grants and less time on helping Kiwis into employment. The Prime Minister came into office with big talk around tackling poverty but her Government is failing to deliver.
“Under National the number of people seeking hardship assistance was lower because there was less pressure on household budgets. The previous Government focussed on a strong economy, job creation and more Kiwis moving off benefits and into the workforce.
“New Zealanders can’t afford this Government.”
The closure of several maternity units over the Christmas-New Year break is concerning and shows just how much support new mums need at this time of year, Taupō MP Louise Upston says.
“Becoming a mum is an emotional time and it’s important mums have access to the right support, whether that’s with breastfeeding, bonding or something as simple as being able to stay in the postnatal facility of their choice.
“National will give all new mums the right to three days’ stay in a postnatal facility of their choosing to ensure they’re not pressured to leave sooner than they’re ready. The money will be ring-fenced so that if one mum doesn’t need to stay for three days, the funds will stay in the pot to be used for those who need a longer stay.
“Alongside Mothers Matter, we’re campaigning for better care for all new mums.
“Rural birthing units have come under pressure, with the most recent to close being in Ōpōtiki.
“Rural mums face the challenge of distance from primary and tertiary birthing facilities. We’ll restore Lumsden Maternity to being a fully operational birthing unit, and will partner with the community to build a new birthing unit in Wanaka, which has seen rapid population growth, so that Wanaka mums have access to a local facility.
“We’ve also proposed improving midwives’ pay – because we know just how important it is that midwives are valued for the work they do.
“National is committed to ensuring that new mums have the right support to get off to the best possible start with their new babies.
“We want mums to be supported all year round, especially at Christmas.”
The Government appears to have dropped its target of 4000 Mana in Mahi places by the end of 2019 and is failing vulnerable young Kiwis, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“When the Prime Minister launched Mana in Mahi she repeatedly talked about 4000 places to get young people into work. Now that’s been dropped, with Willie Jackson stating that the Ministry expects to deliver just 2000 places by 2023.
“This Government is letting down some of the most vulnerable New Zealanders. The number of young Kiwis on the dole has risen by 5500 since this Government took office.
“Once again there’s a stark difference between the Prime Minister’s bold promise and what’s actually being delivered. Mana in Mahi is yet another of this Labour-led Government’s broken promises.
“So far, fewer than 500 places have been taken up and with a dropout rate of 32 per cent, it’s clear the programme is a complete failure. We’re supportive of getting young people into work, but Mana in Mahi just isn’t doing that.
“At the same time, the cost of living has skyrocketed because of the Government’s policies and more and more New Zealanders are struggling to make ends meet. Food grants are being given out in record numbers and rents are up by almost $50 per week.
“National is aspirational for New Zealanders and was getting Kiwis into work because we know how many opportunities being in work can bring. This Government is failing to deliver and letting vulnerable young Kiwis languish on the dole.”
National is proposing a range of new policies that will support families to give Kiwi kids the best possible start to their lives, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“National wants all new mums and dads equipped with the right skills, relationships and access to support services which will see their child grow up in a healthy, secure and nurturing family environment.
“The first 1,000 days in a child’s life are the most important in setting up their future, and this starts during pregnancy.
“In our Social Services Discussion Document, National is proposing introducing a target that would see 90 per cent of pregnant women registered with a Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) in their first trimester. Regular engagement with an LMC is associated with better pregnancy outcomes and normal, healthy births.
“The first few days after giving birth can be some of the most challenging for new mums. That’s why we’re committing to all new mums being entitled to three days of fully funded care in a postnatal facility of their choosing, whether that’s a hospital or birthing unit.
“Some mums have higher needs than others, but National will use our Social Investment approach to ensure we’re actively working with them to address the challenges they face. We want to support vulnerable new mums into stable, healthy homes, with access to parenting education, healthcare, childcare and financial assistance when they need it.
“We’ll also look at increasing the number of home visits to new parents from Well Child Tamariki Ora providers, because we recognise that they have trusted relationships with families and are best placed to pick up any issues or challenges that will impact children from early on.
“By investing in the first 1,000 days, National will ensure that all families are supported to give Kiwi kids the best start to their lives.
“National is aspirational for New Zealanders. We want to give New Zealanders the support they need early on, so they reach their full potential and live better lives.”
National will implement policies to ensure working while on a benefit is worthwhile and implement measures to tackle welfare dependency, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“National believes the best route out of poverty is through the security of a regular pay cheque, and that social welfare should be geared towards supporting and encouraging people to move from welfare dependency into work.
“This Government’s reduction in the use of sanctions sends the wrong message, and 22,000 more people on the dole since this Government came into office is symptomatic of a government that isn’t encouraging New Zealanders to be aspirational for their own lives.
We’ll tackle dependence on welfare in three principal ways:
- Committing to the principles of the Social Security Act about preparing for and finding work;
- Reinstating a firm but fair sanctions regime;
- Using a Social Investment approach to tackle individual barriers to work.
“We believe that beneficiaries who do some work shouldn’t be penalised for working more hours, so we’re supporting the rise in abatement rates to help New Zealanders on welfare take up increasing employment.
“We also want to support those who are on welfare to manage their money well. Our money management system for youth clients will support them to manage their payments, paying things like rent and power directly. This will help vulnerable young people to get their adult lives off to a good start, without falling into debt.
“National will give Kiwis pathways to independence, balancing obligations and sanctions so that New Zealanders on welfare are incentivised to improve their lives. Benefits are a vital safety net for Kiwis facing difficulty, rather than a long-term option.
“The previous National Government set measurable targets to reduce the number of Kiwis on benefits, leading to the number of working-age clients on main benefits dropping by over 40,000 between 2012 and 2017. We’ll do the same again because this approach works.
“National is aspirational for New Zealanders. We want to give New Zealanders the support they need to reach their full potential and live better lives.”
Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni has claimed she’s supporting Kiwis into financial stability but the doubling in the number of benefit advances being paid out would suggest otherwise, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“In the three months to September more than 200,000 benefit advances were paid, a figure that’s doubled since this Government’s been in office.
“Benefit advances have to be paid back, so what’s really happening is twice as many Kiwis are being plunged into debt because they’re unable to cope with everyday costs. That’s because this Government’s policies have pushed the cost of living up.
“How can she say she’s stabilising Kiwis’ financial situations if basics like rent, food and petrol are stretching their bank balances to breaking point?
“It’s not kind or caring to pile on petrol taxes or create so much uncertainty that rents go up by $50 per week. More and more Kiwis are struggling to put food on the table and a roof over their head. This Government’s just making it tougher for vulnerable New Zealanders.
“The previous National Government raised benefits in 2016, providing the first increase above inflation in over 30 years. All this Government’s raised is the cost of living.
“New Zealanders can’t afford this Government.”