Fuseworks Media

Save the Children concerned by changes to benefit indexing

Save the Children New Zealand today expressed serious concerns that changes to the indexing of benefits, rushed through Parliament under urgency yesterday, may lead to lower benefit levels in the future that could increase hardship for New Zealand’s most vulnerable families.

Save the Children Advocacy Director Jacqui Southey says the standard of living for children in New Zealand was a major area of concern for the Committee on the Rights of the Child during New Zealand’s periodic review in January 2023. The review assessed New Zealand’s progress on upholding children’s rights and urged the Government to take urgent measures to address this child rights issue.

“Every New Zealand child has the right to a decent standard of living,” says Ms Southey.

“Government spending on benefits should be seen as an investment in ensuring every New Zealander has what they need to live healthy lives. The reduction of $669.5 million comes off the bottom line of money committed to support people in need, many of whom are already struggling to survive on low benefit incomes.”

Ms Southey says analysis by the Ministry of Social Development revealed women, Māori, Pasifika, and disabled people were expected to be disproportionately impacted by the policy change – and likely to drive more children into poverty than the alternative, in the absence of other changes.

“Rushing this legislation through Parliament limits the valuable input from New Zealanders directly impacted by these changes, those with frontline experience supporting whānau struggling on a benefit, and organisations with relevant expertise on rights, health, or education.

“The level of income in a child’s household directly impacts the standard of living they will be experiencing. We already know that children living in benefit dependent households are experiencing higher levels of child poverty and poorer outcomes related to poverty, such as higher levels of preventable health problems, lower education outcomes, higher levels of food and housing insecurity, and sadly, higher rates of child mortality.

“There are very real reasons why some families need to rely on a benefit. It is critical we have adequate safety nets for whānau that are unable to engage in paid work. Whether people are in paid work, on a benefit, caring for self or others, or studying, they should have an income that can adequately support a decent standard of living.”