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.”
It’s unthinkable the Prime Minister doesn’t believe over a quarter of a million hardship assistance grants being provided for food is evidence of a problem, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“The Prime Minister has attributed the 116 per cent growth in the number of hardship assistance grants for food to making ‘access easier’ and removing barriers to hardship grants. But that just isn’t the case.
“Almost 100,000 hardship grants were given for food each month over the winter. The real reason more New Zealanders are struggling to afford to put food on the table is this Government’s policies are driving up the cost of living. Vulnerable Kiwis just don’t have the funds left over to buy even basic necessities.
“It’s not kind or caring to drive up the cost of living so much that hundreds of thousands of Kiwis are forced to turn to the Government for help, but the Prime Minister seems not to think that’s a problem.
“Rents are up $50 per week because this Government imposed and threatened more costly regulations on landlords, threatened a Capital Gains Tax, extended the bright-line test and ring-fenced losses on rental properties. In addition, there’s been a pile-on of petrol taxes that’s disproportionately affected the poorest Kiwis.
“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 huge increase in hardship grants paid out in the last quarter shows this Labour-led Government’s policies are making life harder for Kiwis, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“In the two years since this Government’s been in office, the number of hardship assistance grants being doled out to Kiwis in dire straits has almost doubled. On every metric, whether it’s food, emergency housing, Special Needs Grants or benefit advances, there’s been an increase in the number of people needing help.
“In the past three months, 570,000 hardship assistance grants were paid out to the tune of almost $170 million. Once again, the taxpayer is footing the bill because this Government’s policies have made it impossible for vulnerable Kiwis to afford basic necessities.
“The raft of new taxes and costs on New Zealanders has driven up the cost of living and hit the most vulnerable hardest.
“Since coming into office, this Government has imposed and threatened more costly regulations on landlords, threatened a Capital Gains Tax, extended the bright-line test and ring-fenced losses on rental properties.
“As a result, rents are up $50 per week, and more and more Kiwis are struggling to put on the table and a roof over their heads.
“More than 270,000 of this quarter’s hardship assistance grants were for food alone, a 116 per cent increase during the Government’s tenure.
“Under National, the number of people seeking hardship assistance from the Ministry of Social Development was much lower due to our strong economy, better job creation and the number of Kiwis going off benefits into work.
“It’s not kind or caring to drive up the cost of living and pitch Kiwis into poverty. The message is clear: New Zealanders can’t afford this Government.”
A petition has been launched today calling for all new mums to have access to three days of fully funded postnatal care, National MP for Taupō Louise Upston says.
“Currently, new mums are entitled to stay in a hospital or postnatal facility for up to 48 hours – but many feel pressure to go home as soon as possible, sometimes only two or three hours after giving birth.
“National is proposing that new mums should be entitled to three days of care after birth, and that that support should be available after each child.
“Becoming a mum is an exciting time, but can also be overwhelming and frightening.
“Giving all new mums the chance to stay for up to three days in a hospital or postnatal facility will mean that if they experience the baby blues, have difficulty breastfeeding, face a medical emergency or simply just need some extra support to help them build up confidence, that support will be available.
“This policy will cost an additional $16-20 million, and the funding will be ringfenced. Mothers who are comfortable going home earlier will be able to, but if there are mothers who need to stay a little longer, the money will stay in the pot so they can.
“The first thousand days are the most important in a child’s life. By supporting families, National will help to get all Kiwi kids off to a good start.
“Please sign my petition calling for three days of postnatal care fully funded by DHBs for all new mums: https://www.national.org.nz/supporting_new_mothers.”
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.”