The Wellington Justice, Peace and Development (JPD) Commission applauds the extension of free medical care for children to the age of 12 in the government’s 2014 Budget announced 15 May, but says it will not address the significant inequalities in the country.
The Budget has not addressed the real issues for families, such as the affordability of food, power and accommodation including the provision of safe, warm and healthy homes. The commission is concerned that this budget focuses more strongly on middle-income earners when clearly the children living in poverty in New Zealand are those of low-income earners.
Of particular concern is the news last month that more than 90 percent of New Zealand’s rental homes failed to pass a warrant of fitness in a trial of 144 homes conducted by home assessment experts.
JPD Commission chair Shane Olsen says that establishing a housing warrant of fitness for public and private rentals is long overdue to ensure all New Zealanders have suitable shelter.
‘This budget fails to address the growing housing issues affecting many New Zealanders including everyone having access to appropriate and affordable housing. Sub-standard, unhealthy homes lead to further impacts of poverty on people’s lives, such as chronic illness and poor educational achievement,’ Shane says.
Commission member Teresa Homan says ‘In a family we would be guilty of neglect if we chose to feed, clothe and provide suitable shelter for only some of our children while depriving others in the family of these necessities. In reality this is what we are doing to one in four children in our New Zealand family.’
The commission endorses Pope Francis’ assertion that ‘true mercy demands that no one should be in need of a meal, of temporary shelter, a legal assistance service, to enable the recognition of his or her right to live and to work, and to be recognised fully as a person’.
Teresa Homan says the country needs benefit levels and a living wage that can realistically cover costs and give people an income that will enable them to participate in society.
‘No family in New Zealand should be deprived of life’s necessities, including affordable and suitable housing, and these are the issues that should have been prioritised and addressed in this Budget.’
The Archdiocesan Justice, Peace and Development Commission is made up of appointees by the Archbishop of Wellington who are tasked with promoting social justice concern in light of Catholic Social Teaching.