Welfare Justice – the Alternative Welfare Working Group – has been launched at the Wellington Catholic Centre. The group was set up by Caritas, the Social Justice Commission of the Anglican Church and the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation to enable participation by those most likely to be affected by proposed welfare changes.
The group includes respected academics and church leaders, as well as representatives of beneficiary and disability groups. Caritas Board deputy chair Mark Richards said Caritas had joined in setting up the group because all voices needed to be part of discussion and debate about the future of our social security system.
‘We are deeply concerned, however, that the government-appointed Welfare Working Group seems to lack people who have experience on the beneficiary side of social welfare. Added to this, the Minister indicated that she anticipated an “ugly debate” which we understand as one in which stereotypes of beneficiaries will flourish and which encourages further stigmatisation of the poor.
‘Caritas is not interested in participating in an “ugly debate” and we expect that beneficiaries will also be reluctant to venture into such territory. We do, however, want to participate in a respectful and dignified discussion in which the human dignity of all New Zealand citizens is upheld, particularly those who experience the hardship of disability, illness, unemployment or caring for dependent relatives.’
The Alternative Welfare Working Group is inviting submissions from beneficiaries and the wider community. They would particularly like to hear about what principles the community believes should drive our social welfare system, and to hear of examples of where these principles are or are not being applied. Submissions can be made on-line at alternativewelfareworkinggroup.org.nz
Public meetings are also planned during August and September in Wellington, Auckland, Rotorua, Christchurch, Invercargill and Northland. People in other centres who wish to participate are also invited to get together to write to the Alternative Welfare Working Group, who will present an alternative report to the government in early December.