Budget shortcomings prove hope needed amid increasing desperation | The Salvation Army

You are here

Budget shortcomings prove hope needed amid increasing desperation

Close up of a child's shoes with large holes in them and toes coming out the sides
Posted May 31, 2024

As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, The Salvation Army Te Ope Whakaora is concerned the Government’s latest Budget doesn’t deliver enough support—or much-needed hope—for marginalised communities amid increasing desperation and inequality.

“The call to show compassion has not been heeded in the 2024 Budget announced by the Government today,” says Lt-Col Ian Hutson, director of the Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit.

“The sense of priorities has seen huge additional spending on prison building, providing tax cuts to landlords and increasing defence spending, none of which appear to be based on clear evidence.”

The Child Poverty Report from the Budget shows increasing child poverty and heavy reliance on getting people into paid employment as the way to lift children out of poverty. This seems an unrealistic plan when the Budget also forecasts unemployment to increase further in the coming year. Nearly 220,000 children live in households relying on welfare. They need more assistance now.

In addition, those on the lowest incomes will receive smaller increases in incomes from the tax cuts compared to higher earners, making their precarious situations little better.

Food insecurity and hardship is rising, and the funding cutback for the Ka Ora, Ka Ako Healthy School Lunches programme raises questions about the quality of food that will be available to children in schools. Meanwhile, it is not clear how much funding is being allocated to continue food distribution and rescue through groups such as the NZ Food Network, and no sign of funding for other measures to support food security in communities such as food co-ops and urban farms.

Rising hardship and increasing unemployment impact unequally on Māori, Pacific people, women (especially sole parents), people living with disabilities and the young. The continuation of the Apprenticeship Boost programme is welcome, but further funding to expand access to workplace training and apprenticeships is needed if youth unemployment is to be reduced.

The commitment announced pre-Budget for 1500 community housing units is welcome. However, this has not been supplemented by clear commitments for further housing built via Kāinga Ora. There does not appear to be any credible level of investment in housing to go anywhere near addressing the housing catastrophe that Aotearoa New Zealand is experiencing, where homelessness and the associated misery continues unabated.

The Budget delivers the largest tax cuts to middle earners, and includes those right at the top of the income scale—while excluding those on the lowest incomes who rely on welfare benefits. This is a recipe for increased poverty and hardship and deepens already large inequalities.

Tightened spending to fund tax cuts also has a dual effect of reducing funding available for a range of crucial social programmes such as financial mentoring.

It is deeply concerning the Government plans to use an online gambling duty as a revenue source without any reference to the harm-minimisation approach to gambling set out in legislation. There will be increased harm from legalising this, and it is not clear whether additional funding will be allocated to addiction prevention and treatment programmes.

The enormous cost of a planned mega-prison will funnel away any meaningful resourcing of other justice initiatives. Putting more people in prisons does not address the root causes of crime, and can even have a radicalising effect and cause more harm. While it is encouraging to see funding for rehabilitation programmes for people in prison on remand, this is a tiny amount compared to what is needed to help reduce reoffending and violence in our communities.

As an example of the increasing desperation experienced by many people and their whānau across Aotearoa, in the year ending December 2023, The Salvation Army distributed more than 92,000 food parcels, a 40 percent increase on 2022. The need continues into 2024.

Despite the Government’s tightened spending, The Salvation Army remains committed to helping people in need. Last year, more than 150,000 Kiwis and their families were assisted by Salvation Army services.

The Salvation Army Territorial Media Officer, 021 945 337, email: media@salvationarmy.org.nz (The Media Officer responds to enquiries from media outlets and journalists. If you would like to donate, are in need of help, or have some other non-media-related enquiry, please call 0800 53 00 00.)