23 Jun 2016

Poverty NZ's 'new normal' - report

1:24 pm on 23 June 2016

The government is dumping responsibility for desperate people on the charitable sector, say New Zealand's Christian social services.

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Photo: 123RF

A new report from the NZ Council of Christian Social Services, released today, says demand on social service organisations has soared, while government support has shrunk, particularly in the form of food grants.

Read the full report online here

Executive officer Trevor McGlinchey said like many of the people they served, social service organisations were under huge financial stress, with government funding staying largely static for the last eight years.

Desperation to find housing, food and sufficient income to survive had become "the new normal" for many families, he said.

There was "a real contradiction" between government support and the experience of organisations working at the front-line.

More and more people were relying on food parcels from community food banks, yet Work and Income's special needs grants for food decreased by 28 percent between December 2009 to December 2015.

The report also found that in the same period, Housing New Zealand waiting lists dropped from over 10,000 to 3500, even while overcrowding and homelessness increased, and emergency housing providers were being swamped with people asking for help.

"Government has relied too heavily on the response of community organisations, charities and service providers to meet the needs of those with the least in our communities," Mr McGlinchey said.

"Government must provide greater income to poor families, whether they are in work or on a benefit."

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Members of the NZ Council of Christian Social Services, include the Salvation Army, Bapist Churches of Aotearoa NZ and many others. Photo: Supplied

A spokesman for the Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said food grants peaked in 2010 at the height of the Global Financial Crisis and were now at "similar levels" to 2011. While the number of applications had declined, the percentage granted had increased, he said.

"As far as community investment is concerned, we invest over $330 million of taxpayer money in the social services sector - and there is little evidence it is effective in helping vulnerable people which is why we are revamping the system through the community investment strategy to ensure it is targeted and results-based, and that it makes a real difference for those who need support the most.

"On top of this funding, Budget 2016 invested an additional $347 million as part of the overhaul of care and protection for vulnerable young people and $46 million for a new nationwide system to support victims of sexual abuse system, while the $790 million child material hardship package in Budget 2015 represented the first rise in benefits for 43 years."

The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services is the umbrella organisation of the churches' social service agencies in Aotearoa. Members include the Anglican Care Network, Baptist Churches of Aotearoa New Zealand, Catholic Social Services, PresbyterianSupport New Zealand, the Methodist Church and the Salvation Army.

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