How far will the money go?
Lifting 33,000 children out of poverty claim 'quite optimistic'.
The manager of a homeless shelter in Gisborne has welcomed the welfare-focused Budget 2021 but says the Government's expectation that it will lift thousands of children out of poverty is “quite optimistic”.
The Government yesterday announced the cost of the total package would be $3.3 billion over four years and would lift up to 33,000 children out of poverty.
— The Government says adults can expect their weekly benefit rates to increase by between $32 and $55.
— By 1 April 2022, sole parents will see their main benefit increase by an extra $36 a week.
— A couple with children will receive an extra $55 a week through Jobseeker Support or an extra $42 through the Supported Living Payment.
— Individuals without children will have their Jobseeker Support jump by $48 a week, or $55 a week for couples.
— The Supported Living Payment will jump by $32 a week for individuals without children, or $42 for couples.
But Oasis Community Shelter manager Lizz Crawford is concerned money will not stretch as far as is hoped.
“It's just really expensive to even live at the moment. While I'm happy that that kind of money is being given, for multiple children families I just wonder how far that money will go.
“It's quite optimistic (of the Government) that it will lift that many children out of poverty.”
The Government said it was the largest rise in welfare payments in “more than a generation”.
Ms Crawford said it was “better than where beneficiaries sit right now”.
But she still had concerns about the Work and Income threshold, which meant people receiving welfare payments could earn only $160 per week before it started being deducted from their benefit.
The threshold increased to $160 on April 1.
It was challenging living on the minimum wage, and beneficiaries were nowhere near that, she said.
“If they're on a benefit and then they're trying to work, they shouldn't be penalised for trying to improve their situation.”
As of December last year, 233 children in Tairawhiti were living homeless with a parent or guardian. That could be in emergency accommodation or in vehicles, she said.
But Ms Crawford suspected that figure would have increased by now as numbers on the social housing register continued to climb.
“I'd say that's the very tip of the iceberg, the 233,” she said.
In 2015, there were 58 people on the social housing register in Gisborne but that number had steadily climbed to 555 in December last year.
“We often hear about the people on the social housing register, but we don't often hear about the children, or those not on the register — those who are invisible,” Ms Crawford said.
“It doesn't count people not on it and it appears no one is looking for those people.”
Meanwhile, Tairawhiti SuperGrans general manager Linda Coulston says she had “goosebumps” on hearing the Government's commitment to welfare.
As the Government made its budget announcement, Ms Coulston and the team had just finished packing 260 meals for whanau in accommodation without cooking facilities.
“Having 33,000 tamariki lifted out of poverty is a relief.
“However I'm anxious and concerned about the other 92,000 tamariki who are still in households where their basic needs cannot be met.”
That was why it was crucial to have trusted community organisations like SuperGrans who supported whanau through wrap-around services, she said.
“These services are needed and hugely utilised in Aotearoa, especially more so post-Covid-19.
“Now the Government needs to recognise that we need the resources to support whanau that trust community organisations.
“For our beneficiaries, the increase is the biggest we have had in a long time. It's a good start and I am encouraged by this extra support coming in for our whanau.
“The Government cannot take their finger off the pulse yet, though, and they know this. There is much more work to be done in making sure everyone in Aotearoa can live well and not be brought up in a struggling whanau environment for all of their early years.”