The crisis the Government cannot hide (but is trying to)

Recently there have been some truly shocking stories coming out about people who are falling through the cracks of New Zealand’s social welfare safety net. Some of these stories are about people whose case has involved multiple social welfare agencies that have either because of the statutory law under which they function, or simple incompetence, passed the buck instead of trying to address the problems that brought these clients to their offices. The Government denies there is a crisis, but the number of people who say they are living in cars, garages, and other makeshift accommodation, suggests otherwise.

But it is more than just a problem with the type of accommodation that people are living in. Students going to school are being forced to drop out as their parents cannot pay the rent to enable them to live at a fixed address. This has flow on consequences because the students are getting left behind academically, and those that can still afford the rent might be struggling to put food on the table, meaning students turn up to school hungry and do not do their best work.

A particularly concerning announcement was made by Paula Bennett last week. She announced a policy of giving people trying to get on the state house waiting list in Auckland $5,000 to go and live in a rural town. Aside from demonstrating disinterest in finding a long term solution, it also smacks of a contempt for those it targets – basically saying “here is $5,000, now get lost”. Furthermore, thanks to successive Governments disinvestment in rural communities, the jobs that are supposed to be there for the people who do take up the offer, simply do not exist.

Another aspect was presented on Newshub tonight by Anita McNaught, talking to a working solo mother with four children. She had tried to get hold of Work and Income to arrange a house. Nothing was forth coming and W.I.N.Z. offered them a motel unit. Aside from being a motel unit not fit for human inhabitation – it had an ant infestation among other problems; none of the reviews of the motel were positive (16 of the 19 were actually one star reviews). Whilst there one of her boys became dangerously sick and had to be admitted to hospital. Then Work and Income New Zealand asked for the $8,159 it had spent on their motel accommodation back, which she could not afford to pay – and since Work and Income New Zealand had not provided her with anything else, should she have been obligated to? Finally Work and Income relented and found her a state house to move into. Unfortunately three days later, as a result of linger effects from his illness, the child who had gone to hospital died.

This is an election issue that all of the Opposition parties need to work on. If it is not considered an election issue now, should the current attitude of the Government exist in 12 months time, there is a very high probability it will contribute to any election defeat National suffers. This is about the basic health and social well being of New Zealand citizens – New Zealand tax paying and law abiding citizens. This is about putting the simple needs of New Zealand and New Zealanders first.

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