The call by the Fairer Futures coalition for 'livable incomes for all' will be ignored by a Prime Minister and a Government that thinks the April 1 increases will be 'sufficient'.
AT A RECENT press conference the Prime Minister was asked, given the escalating cost of living, was the Government considering a further increase in benefit levels? Jacinda Arden's immediate response was the April 1 increases would be 'sufficient'. End of story.
If we reluctantly give Ardern a very generous benefit of the doubt and accept that she is not being economical with the truth, then her denial of the grim economic reality that more and more New Zealanders are confronting can only be the result of a Prime Minister who really does have little idea of the lives that many New Zealanders are living.
A cursory examination of her public schedule reveals someone who has a tenuous connection with the people who are impacted by her government's policies. Her public appearances, such as they are, are stage managed to the max. Yesterday, for example, she turned up to open Transmission Gully and get her face on the six o'clock news bulletins. With Ardern its always about attenuating the positive and eliminating the negative - and social deprivation and distress is one of those 'negatives'.
For Jacinda Ardern the economic struggle of ordinary Kiwis is expressed in the documents that pass over her desk on the ninth floor of the Beehive. Numbers. Graphs. Projections. And while one family living in poverty might be a tragedy, a thousand such families is a statistic.
That's why the recent figures released by the Fairer Future coalition will get short shrift from the Government - if they are even considered at all.
Updating the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s modelling on what level of income is required to meet basic costs, Fairer Future says the majority of people receiving income support still won't have nearly enough to live on, even after the April 1 2022 income support increases come into effect.
According to Fare Future some families will stay face shortfalls of up to $300 a week. Fairer Future have concluded :
'In mid-2022, a couple with three children receiving Jobseeker will need around $300 extra a week to meet their total costs, including children’s sport and contingency for unexpected bills. This means they’re missing well over a quarter of the income they need to be able to live with dignity and participate in their communities. To meet just their core costs, including everyday necessities such as rent, food and power, they still need an additional $165 a week.
'A sole parent with three children will require around $240 more a week to meet total costs (almost a quarter - 23% - more income), or an additional $111 a week solely to meet core costs. A single person receiving Jobseeker and sharing a house will need about $90 more every week (or 22% additional income) to cover all costs, and an additional $50 a week to cover core costs. Without average debt repayments included in the calculations, only one of the 13 households is able to cover their total costs: the 1-parent, 1-child family receiving Best Start (additional support for children under 3) and sharing a house. If low repayments of debt were included in the modelling, none of the 13 model households in the updated research would be able to meet their total costs.'
Spokesperson Brook Stanley Pao says that 'The much-vaunted income support increases will be too little, too late for most people. This was predicted, and it’s our most vulnerable families and communities who will continue to suffer, at high risk of harm and exploitation, because of this inadequacy.'
In the present hostile political environment and with the lack of a real political alternative, Fairer Futures have little option but to call on the Government to ensure a livable income for all. But its not going to get a positive response from a Prime Minister and a Government that thinks the April 1 increases will be 'sufficient'.
In terms of a political fightback Labour remains part of problem, not the solution.