Government compassion needed in midst of rising hardship | The Salvation Army

You are here

Government compassion needed in midst of rising hardship

Man begs for spare change in Auckland traffic
Posted May 28, 2024

The Salvation Army Te Ope Whakaora is issuing a heartfelt plea to the Government to show compassion in the Budget being released this week, and to support people on lower incomes who are enduring the toughest times amid an increasing cost-of-living crisis.

Community ministries and financial mentors are dealing with increasingly complex situations, with real desperation and despair in the communities hardest hit.

The Salvation Army calls on the Government not to add to the already large amount of misery people are experiencing across the motu. People and their whānau—including Māori, Pasifika and those on lower incomes—are struggling, and many feel there is little hope of things improving in the near future.

Job cuts in government and the private sector mean unemployment is rising. The risk of Government actions doing further, deeper and irreparable harm to people in our communities is now very high.

“We need this Budget to be one that brings hope and compassion into struggling communities,” says Lt-Col Ian Hutson, director of The Salvation Army’s Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit (SPPU).

More than 40 percent of people The Salvation Army works with identify as Māori, and we see the unequal impacts of rising hardship and unemployment on tangata whenua. From our work in communities, we see that successful action to bring about change needs to have kaupapa Māori approaches at the centre.

Among the things The Salvation Army is calling for in the Budget includes a plausible plan to reduce child poverty. Concrete actions can reduce child poverty and hardship, and could be a source of hope for hundreds of thousands of children and their whānau across the motu currently under increasing pressure.

“Harsher sanctions and restricting access to hardship assistance like food grants are among new Government policies implemented that are contributing to increasing hardship,” says Hutson.

“We are asking that the May 30 Budget bring relief to the more than 300,000 households, including over 200,000 children, who need the support of our welfare system.”

Food hardship is one of the key factors in child poverty and material hardship. The past 18 months, since late 2022, have seen a sharp increase in food insecurity and the need for support.

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.

The Salvation Army welcomes pre-Budget commitments to continue the Ka Ora, Ka Ako, Healthy School Lunches programme. This is an established and effective programme, but the changes proposed by the Government to the school lunches programme risk undermining the wider social benefits of the initiative that include building local community engagement and employment.

Further Budget investments are needed that continue funding for effective food distribution support, such as the NZ Food Network and food rescue organisations, and community-based affordable food enterprises such as food co-ops and urban farms. These initiatives return surpluses to their own communities and promote sustainable employment options that would make a substantial difference to food security in the communities where The Salvation Army is working.

Clear and substantial Budget commitments are needed to expand the supply of both community housing and government-owned Kāinga Ora housing. The pre-Budget announcement of funding for 1500 community housing places from July 2025 is welcome, but comes at the same time as a highly critical report on government social housing provider Kāinga Ora that places enormous uncertainty around the future of housing projects beyond June 2025.

“There is no way out of the chronic housing crisis in this country unless government commits to greatly expanding all forms of social housing,’ says Paul Barber, SPPU social policy analyst. “This is an effective way to secure affordable housing for the tens of thousands of people waiting on the Housing Register, who are living in over-crowded housing or simply homeless.

“The evidence is compelling that social housing is an effective social investment that greatly improves life outcomes and wellbeing for those who are living in them.”

Tax cuts that excludes those on the lowest incomes is not relief at all, and increases economic inequality. The Finance Minister has confirmed New Zealanders receiving welfare support are

excluded from any ‘tax relief’. Such a policy offers no hope for tomorrow for the lowest income Kiwis. A sensible alternative to handing tax cuts to middle- and high-income earners could be to include those on welfare via additional targeted cash relief payments that could be funded by smaller

amounts of tax cuts.

Tightened government spending puts at risk funding for many important social support programmes such as financial mentoring programmes, and leaves these vulnerable to reduced funding just at a time when more people are needing their help.

A focus on reduced regulation ‘red tape’ puts pressure on crucial regulation protecting vulnerable people, such as regulation of consumer credit and oversight of private rental, grocery and energy markets.

Lt-Col Hutson again stresses the need for positive action that has mana, integrity and aroha when so many people and their whānau are doing it tough.

“Budget 2024 needs to offer more than words, but demonstrate meaningful compassion with resourcing for practical responses to growing hardship.”

The Salvation Army Territorial Media Officer, 021 945 337, email: (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.)