4 February 2013
A widening gap between those reported to be without work and those who are receiving benefits along with the increasing demands on community organisations for emergency support may show that the welfare net is slipping, the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services says.
Executive officer Trevor McGlinchey says the Vulnerability Report issue 14,released on 25 January, shows that by the third quarter of last year the numbers on benefits had dropped across most groups, but the number reporting as unemployed had grown by 19,000. ‘In most areas the demands on emergency help and on ongoing basic support needs had reached record highs.’
Mr McGlinchey says the biggest recent changes that are likely to affect benefit take-up and demand for social services are the tightening of access to social welfare as welfare reforms take effect.
‘We are monitoring the effect of these reforms on our community social service agency member network.
‘It is still early in the implementation period, but there appears to be some rise in demand for services as people increasingly struggle to gain the benefit support, once an integral part of New Zealand’s welfare net.’
Church and community organisations are already struggling to meet present levels of demand, he says.
‘The further welfare reform changes expected this year may result in some people not being able to get the help they need.
‘If this happens we will see more families and individuals losing their homes, becoming unwell, not being able to access healthcare, unable to buy sufficient food, and in children moving from school to school as families seek emergency housing.
‘We know that this is bad for our society and, because people in these situations require intensive and expensive ongoing support to get back on their feet, it is also bad for the economy.’
NZCCSS board chair Rod Watts urged Work and Income to take a supportive approach to implementing the welfare reforms and to ensuring that ‘their clients’ wellbeing is paramount’.
NZCCSS social service organisations will do their best to support vulnerable members of the community, but Mr Watts stresses they ‘cannot replace the government in ensuring all New Zealanders have food, housing, energy and other basic needs met’.