WelCom June 2020:
The Minister of Finance Hon Grant Roberston delivered Budget 2020 on Thursday, 14 May 2020.
Services for People in Hardship but No Structural Change
‘The new funding to provide services to those who are severely affected by the economic downturn will be a great help to those who suffer Covid-19 related hardship’, says Trevor McGlinchey, Executive Officer for the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS). ‘The additional funding for a wide range of supports is welcomed by social service organisations. This funding will help them step up to provide the support that families, whānau and communities need.’
Prior to the Budget, NZCCSS called for structural change to the benefit system so that those who need welfare receive enough income to meet their basic needs. This would reduce the overall demand for crisis support and social services.
‘NZCCSS is disappointed the structural change that is needed in the welfare system has not been implemented. The Budget has maintained the benefit status quo, with only small increases in income. As a result of this lack of change many more New Zealanders will be impacted by poverty and hardship’, said Mr McGlinchey. ‘If the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s recommendations had been implemented whānau would need less support as they would be self-sufficient and more able to engage positively with their communities.’
With the coming waves of unemployment and hardship the need for a strong, capable community and social services sector has never been more apparent. The lack of government financial support for the sector over many years has negatively affected the ‘social infrastructure’ the sector provides. An ongoing process for increasing funding and building up sector capability is required to ensure community and social service organisations are well positioned to meet the increasing needs.
‘While this Budget delivered significant additional funding into areas such as family violence services, food rescue, foodbanks, rural communities and public housing only a small amount of funding was provided to support organisations to address current and historic cost pressures’, Mr McGlinchey said.
‘During the Covid-19 lockdown the sector responded with innovation, determination and compassion to meet community needs. To do this over what will be a long recovery period the Government needs to make additional investments to support social-service organisations.’
With the Government holding back significant funding for an ongoing response to the coronavirus, NZCCSS calls for additional funding to be made available quickly to ensure New Zealanders can access the supports they need.
New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services is the umbrella group for social services of the Anglican Care Network, Baptist Churches of Aotearoa New Zealand, Catholic Social Services, Presbyterian Support NZ, the Methodist Church, and The Salvation Army.
Budget 2020 Response
Wellington Archdiocese Ecology, Justice and Peace Commission
Wellington Archdiocese Ecology, Justice and Peace Adviser Lisa Beech welcomes Budget 2020, delivered Thursday 14 May, which significantly increases government spending to protect and create jobs, deliver heathcare, build houses, support community organisations, and create environmental projects during the Covid-19 health and economic crises.
‘After four decades in which ideas that the market will deliver social and economic wellbeing have predominated, we strongly welcome the recognition in Budget 2020 that a core role of the State is promoting the common good of all.’
However, despite the greatest increase in government spending many may see in a lifetime, the Budget does not address significant shortcomings in our welfare system at a time when unprecedented numbers of people are entering the system for the first time.
The commission submitted to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee in February 2020 that the Government implement the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s Recommendation 19, that main benefits be raised to cover a higher proportion of people’s living costs, reducing reliance on other forms of assistance.
Lisa Beech from the Commission said instead of addressing the inadequacy of benefit levels, Budget 2020 instead supports the charitable sector delivering emergency food support through schools and foodbanks.
‘The best way to overcome food insecurity is to raise benefit levels so families can buy food themselves. Our inadequate social safety net will inevitably see more people in poverty. We will continue to advocate fundamental issues in our welfare system must be addressed through the Covid-19 response.’
A foundation of hope on which all can flourish
Caritas, the Catholic justice and peace agency, has welcomed the Government’s Budget as ‘a foundation of hope on which to build a fairer society for all to flourish’.
‘In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the team of five million New Zealanders has done an incredible job of protecting the sick, the elderly and those most vulnerable to the virus. Now we need innovative investment to help us all create a fairer society in which no one is left out and all can thrive,’ said Caritas Director Julianne Hickey.
The pandemic response has also presented a tremendous opportunity to put right some long-neglected injustices – to heal the afflictions of poverty, intergenerational unemployment, homelessness and environmental degradation.
Pope Francis recently set us a challenge: not to perpetuate a globalisation of indifference, but to build a civilisation of love. He said, in the post-Covid world ‘we need to establish the necessary antibodies of justice, charity and solidarity’. These things are necessary for a ‘civilisation of hope’, confounding ‘anxiety and fear, sadness and fatigue’.
The Budget seeks to ‘Rebuild Together’ and to create jobs. Caritas welcomes initiatives that are good for the environment, create meaningful work opportunities that affirm human dignity and offer New Zealanders a sense of security and hope, and take bold actions based on what is right and just, says Julianne Hickey.
Strengthening the Māori economy and ensuring inequalities are overcome must be a priority for government, civil society, and the private sector. Caritas’ tangata whenua partners seek encouragement for local employment and support for iwi-led initiatives. Putting resources back into hands of the iwi can provide employment through their kaitiakitanga, or stewardship, by helping to provide food, build healthy ecosystems, and maintain eco-tourism ventures.
With the global challenge of climate change the new economy must be low-carbon and investment decisions to generate jobs should reflect that. For carbon-intensive industries that need to make substantial changes, there should be a fair transition involving education, upskilling and retraining of staff, as well as support for new flexible ways of working, which may involve working more often from home, Caritas says.
An increase in local production and employment should not become a retreat into a selfish isolationism. Caritas says New Zealand needs to continue to be a good neighbour to those in our region who may need extra help, and welcomes New Zealand’s commitment to overseas aid, especially to Pacific neighbours, and calls for ongoing transparency in the allocation of those commitments.
‘In the Budget we find a foundation of hope; now we must ensure all New Zealanders are able to contribute to and benefit from the opportunities that will arise from the more cohesive, resilient society we rebuild together.’