WelCom March 2018:
The Wellington Catholic Commission for Justice, Peace and Development has long sought a greater focus in government spending and policy priorities on the poverty of children and their families, provision of housing, and care for the environment.
In a written submission to Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Select Committee, the JPD Commission has supported that these concerns be given greater priority in the Budget Policy statement 2018.
Mgsr Gerard Burns, spokesperson for the Wellington Catholic JPD Commission, said the extension of the Public Finance Act, and the development of a wider set of wellbeing indicators were also welcome measures. However, Mgsr Gerard said it was important the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee was not constrained by existing fiscal parameters, like the Budget Responsibility Rules, in considering the significant changes ‘we need to make to respond to poverty and climate change’.
‘It is important new child poverty or environmental initiatives are not simply one-off changes, which do not address underlying “business-as-usual” models of production and consumption,’ he said.
The JPD Commission also commented that while new child poverty measures were welcome, the Commission would have preferred to give input on the proposed changes through democratic processes such as Select Committee submissions, rather than having the measures passed under urgency.
Following the archdiocesan ‘Benefit Impact’ last November [set up for a week at St Bernadette’s in Naenae to give advice to people about their benefits], the Commission asked the Select Committee to give more focus to ensuring eligible families receive both new and existing entitlements. At the Naenae Benefit Impact, around half of those seeking assistance were over the age of 65. While on paper their entitlements looked as if they could be living free from hardship, in practice many were having difficulty accessing the assistance to which they were entitled.
Lisa Beech is Community Organiser and JPD Adviser, Catholic Social Services.