Election 2014

7 Nov 2011

Labour would extend Working for Families

6:43 pm on 7 November 2011

The Labour Party has announced it would gradually extend Working For Families tax credits to cover beneficiary families and increase paid parental leave from 14 to 26 weeks if elected to Government.

The commitments are part of Labour's children's policy, released on Monday, which the party estimates will cost $2.6 billion over seven years.

Deputy leader Annette King says the policy would help lift about 150,000 families out of poverty.

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"Under Labour, poorer families will have $70 - $80 more in their pockets," Ms King said.

The party said it would assist the poorest families by tax changes that make the first $5000 of income tax free and by extending full Working for Families eligibility to people who don't at present meet the criteria for the In-Work Tax Credit component.

The credit, worth about $60 a week, is not available to parents on the benefit or who are working part time - something child advocacy groups have criticised for years.

Labour would phase in a replacement payment from 2013 and abolish the In-Work Tax Credit by 2018.

Ms King says Labour would also introduce an official poverty line so the country can measure progress in reducing poverty.

The party says it would provide free 24-hour-a-day access to primary health care for all under 6s.

The policy also includes funding free dental treatment for pregnant women.

Labour promised a return to 20 hours of free early childhood education for three- and four-year-olds.

Ms King said that while New Zealand is the best place in the world to bring up children, it has some of the worst statistics in the OECD for child health and well-being.

The National Party has critcised Labour's policy on children as proof that Labour was happy to spend and borrow more.

National's campaign chair Steven Joyce said the announcement showed Labour was oblivious to the fragile nature of the world economy, and the crucial importance of balancing New Zealand's books.