It is encouraging that some provision has been made to address the plight of the poorest and most vulnerable New Zealanders in the 2015 Budget.
Provision of a $790 million child hardship package and the provision of Government land for affordable housing in Auckland will help, says The Salvation Army.
Benefit rates have been increased by $25 for families with children. Additionally, student allowance rates for families have increased by $25. Although this additional assistance will reduce in some cases the amount paid in accommodation supplement and temporary support, families should receive on average an additional $23 a week. This is a welcome addition to the most at risk.
An increase by the same amount for Working for Families is also a welcome assistance for low-income working New Zealanders.
It is of some concern to The Salvation Army that mothers will be required to seek work when their child turns three. While the ability to work helps lift the income of a family, The Salvation Army is not convinced that sufficient supports yet exist to ensure quality and safe arrangements for children. Further efforts will also be needed to ensure that suitable work is available, linked to adequate child care.
The Government land package for Auckland is significant, but The Salvation Army would also like the Government to commit to increasing its own supply of state houses. A guarantee that all the houses on this land will be affordable is also necessary.
Until permanent affordable housing is built on Government land, housing need will remain acute. The Government has failed to take the opportunity to fund extra support for emergency housing provision. The Salvation Army will continue to be faced with families with nowhere to live. Some assistance in meeting this need would have been valuable.
The Budget does not seem to offer significant support to regions like Northland and Gisborne. People in these regions who are missing out do not receive any boost in their opportunities and futures through this budget. A sound economic and social future for New Zealand depends on addressing some of the deficits regions are facing. It is an opportunity missed in this budget.
Major Sue Hay
Director, The Salvation Army Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit
Work: (09) 261 0885