Welfare advisory group – 42 recommendations, 3 to be implemented

The Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) report has been released containing 42 ‘key recommendations’. The Government has announced that one will start to be implemented soon, and another two next year.

This was initiated by the Green Party Confidence and Supply Agreement with Labour.

Overhaul the welfare system, ensure access to entitlements, remove excessive sanctions and review Working For Families so that everyone has a standard of living and income that enables them to live in dignity and participate in their communities, and lifts children and their families out of poverty.

The Government has announced that three recommendations will be implemented.

  • Removing the section 192 sanction will cost $113.4 million over 4 years and will come into effect on 1 April 2020.
  • Increasing the abatement thresholds of main benefits over the next four years will benefit around 73,000 low income individuals and families and is a total investment of $97.1 million over 4 years and will come into effect on 1 April 2020.
  • $76.3 million will be allocated to fund up to 263 new front line staff over four years to help support more people into work
  • The combined cost of these three pre-budget announcements is $286.8 million over the next 4 years.

That’s about $70 million per year. That’s very frugal (you could say paltry) compared to the NZ First $1 billion per year that was available from last year’s budget.

Carmel Sepuloni (Minister of Social Development):

Supporting people into work and income security – priorities in welfare reforms

The Government is taking immediate action to support people into work and improve income security for New Zealanders on benefits, in response to the release of the Government’s Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) report today.

The WEAG report, Whakamana Tāngata: Restoring Dignity to Social Security in New Zealand, contains 42 key recommendations that call for a systematic overhaul of New Zealand’s welfare system with a renewed focus on support to help those on benefits into sustainable work, improved income adequacy to ensure families on benefits are not living in poverty and a culture change in MSD to ensure people are treated with respect.

“Our welfare system is not providing the right support for people in need. This is contributing to issues of inequality and hardship which have been long-term problems for New Zealand that this Government is committed to fixing,” Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni said.

“The release of the expert working group report and the three announcements made in response to it, represent good first steps to improving the system, but major change will take years.

“In Budget 2019 we will be allocating funds to employ up to 263 frontline staff over four years to support more people into good work, allowing beneficiaries to keep more of what they earn when they do work by lifting the abatement threshold and eliminating a discriminatory sanction that cruelly singled out 24,000 children raised by sole parents.

“Our plans will result in fewer children growing up in extreme poverty and see more people moving off benefits and into decent long term work.

“The Government can’t deliver on every recommendation at once. We are taking a balanced approach and are committed to delivering change over the longer term and prioritising areas like housing and mental health which impact on all New Zealanders but especially those in the welfare system.

“We have decided not to implement the report’s recommendations to increase benefit levels by up to 47% immediately. As we have said, we will be looking at a staged implementation of the report. There are a range of ways to improve people’s financial wellbeing and reduce the number of people on benefits that live in poverty, in line with our commitment to reduce the overall rates of child poverty in New Zealand, and we will be looking at these over the coming years,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

Green Party Co-Leader Marama Davidson says the report released today creates a vital roadmap for significant change and the new budget initiatives our Government is implementing will provide a solid start on that journey.

“We are committed to an inclusive society where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and supported to participate fully in the community,” Marama Davidson said.

Minister for Children Tracey Martin says that we need a welfare system that is fair to everyone and that supports child wellbeing.

“We need to ensure all parents and caregivers have the resources and ability to provide the best possible care for their children, Tracey Martin said.

Government announcements

The Government will be repealing Section 192, formerly known as Section 70A, that cut incomes to parents and their children if the name of the other parent was not declared to the Government.

“Around 24,000 children will be significantly better off as a result of this change, with many sole parents’ incomes increasing by an average of $34 a week,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

“This will have a meaningful impact on some of New Zealand’s poorest families and fixes an unfair and discriminatory sanction that penalised children because they didn’t have a named father.

“The Government supports parental freedom, and ensuring sole parents and their children are not pushed into poverty because of a private parenting decision that the Government has no need to be involved in.

“National was briefed in 2016 that there was insufficient evidence to support the discriminatory sanction as it didn’t achieve its initial purpose to get money from the partner that’s not named in the birth certificate.

73,000 individuals and their families will be better off by the Government raising abatement thresholds for those on benefits who work.

“This is about ensuring wage fairness and making sure low income beneficiaries can take home more of what they earn.

“This change is about catching up with the times. Abatement thresholds for Jobseeker Support haven’t changed in over 20 years and many people find they are no better off for working, after travel and childcare costs.

“We are supporting more people into work by funding up to 263 new frontline staff over four years.

“The report shows that proactive employment case management is integral to ensuring that people are upskilled and trained so they are matched to sustainable and meaningful employment” Carmel Sepuloni said.

The full report: http://www.weag.govt.nz/assets/documents/WEAG-report/aed960c3ce/WEAG-Report.pdf

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  1. Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  3rd May 2019

      As the fathers of children need not be named in cases of incest, rape and violent partners, I can’t see why the others can’t be obliged to contribute to the keep of their children raher than the rest of us having to do so.

      • David

         /  3rd May 2019

        The thing is when these girls come off the benefit where is the child support from Dads..oops now how am I a going to get support

    • Gezza

       /  3rd May 2019

      Another werkingruppe learns its time & effort was wasted because they don’t have to figure out how to implement & pay for their recommendations?

      Marama Davidson was among the group standing up there Carmel Sepuloni, shown briefly on 1news at 6, when Sepuloni was making the announcement. Putting on a brave face, a hesitant smile, & trying not to look underwhelmed, I thought.

      Auckland Action Poverty rep was also shown ripping in to the government for not giving beneficiaries a 47% benefit increase – as recommended by the expert panel. Possibly I mis-heard that – that seem a big ask.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  4th May 2019

        No, the 47% increase was mooted. I can’t remember what the current welfare bill is, but to have it half as much again would cripple the country.

        David, I can’t understand what you are asking, it’s too garbled to make sense.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  4th May 2019

          The current budget is $30 billion, so if we assume for argument’s sake that half of that is actual payments, it would mean that WINZ would cost almost $1,000.000.000 a week.

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  3rd May 2019

    Meanwhile out in the real bad world the social agencies are overwhelmed doing uplifts of children at risk from their home circumstances and no doubt creating the next generation of welfare dependency.

  3. David

     /  3rd May 2019

    One for blazer, one for Duker and one for llurcher.
    Keep them happy and their unquestioning loyalty

  1. Little ‘transformational’ about Government so far | Your NZ

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