New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS) is calling for greater levels of support, including lifting benefit payments, for families with children and for more investment to be made in rangatahi Maori and in Pacific young people.
After two years of releasing Vulnerability Reports NZCCSS is distressed to be reporting a real and continuing deepening of vulnerability within New Zealand communities. “The first Vulnerability Report was published in March 2009”, said Trevor McGlinchey, NZCCSS Executive Officer. “Now a full 2 years later almost every indicator shows that New Zealand’s inequalities are increasing with more people becoming worse-off as support for those on benefits and lower level wages doesn’t keep up with costs”.
“The unemployment rates for young Māori and young Pacific people are unacceptably high and have been since the recession started”, said McGlinchey. “We must invest more in our youth – not to do so is will result in increasing cycles of income inequality along with health and social disparities instead of a hopeful and prosperous future. Community Max, employers’ subsidies and other Youth Training schemes need reinstating or beefing up to help get our young people into employment”.
The Report shows that the numbers of people receiving unemployment benefits have increased by 214.9% since 2008 and that over the last 2 years Māori youth unemployment has risen from 18% to 28.8% with Pasifika rates rising to 28.1%. In 2009 the number of children supported in homes dependent on a social welfare benefit was 211,736 now it has increased to 232,262 – an additional 20,528 children who are likely to be living in poverty.
“We know from New Zealand and international research that if children start life in poverty their chances of achieving well in later life are greatly diminished”, said Ruby Duncan, NZCCSS President. “It’s not enough to put in place harsher penalties and tests to force families who are on benefits to try and find work – work that doesn’t even exist. We have to put in place strategies to better support children – including increasing benefit levels and take-home wages for low income families with children. In the long term this will result in more successful children and greater prosperity for all New Zealanders”.
The report also states that the increases in basic living costs such as food, power, petrol and rent have been much greater than the increases in benefits and basic wages.
“All of these increases have been reflected in the worse-off getting much worse off and many who were doing okay now falling into the worse-off category”, said Ruby Duncan. “As a result Christian and other social service agencies have mobilised to meet a huge increase in need – foodbanks, counselling, budget advice, emergency housing and advocacy, even as they themselves face funding pressures as charitable donations and government funding has not keep up with demand”.
Vulnerability Reports will only be published on-line with printable versions downloadable from the www.justiceandcompassion.org.nz website.