ANZASW Statement: Government’s latest relief payment unfair to those on job-seekers benefit
ANZASW is deeply concerned with the Government’s new relief payment that was announced yesterday (25th May). Up to $490 a week will be available to New Zealand citizens and residents who have lost a full- time job work as a result of COVID-19 while they find new work or retrain. This is roughly double the job-seekers benefit which is $250 a week for a single adult over 25 years old.
Further, unlike the job-seekers benefit, the new relief payment is available to people regardless of their partner being paid up to $2000 a week. For those that have lost part-time work due to COVID-19, up to $250 a week is available. This effectively introduces a two-tier system, that frames those who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 as deserving and those who had lost their job before COVID-19 as undeserving. This morning (26th May) on the RNZ Morning Report, Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni defended this tiered payment system as “a responsible step given the context we are in” and framed the increased payments as helping people adjust to sudden and unexpected reductions in income.
ANZASW is not disappointed in the increases in resources available to those who have lost their job; we commend such increases. We are however concerned about the significant issues of inequality and unfairness apparent within this system of financial support. If anything, the increases in payments available for those who have lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 make very clear the inadequacy of the current job-seekers benefit to meet the needs of New Zealanders to live decent and dignified lives. ANZASW view it as unacceptable to expect people to live on a benefit amount that falls below the minimum wage, let alone the living wage.
The Green Party have stated that Labour has not upheld its side of the core promise made between the two parties when forming the Government to “overhaul” the social welfare system. The Greens have labelled the latest Government response as “cruel and inhumane”, ANZASW CEO Lucy Sandford-Reed agrees with and supports this statement.
Further, Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s comments that relief payments are a “temporary payment for a one in a 100-year event” are concerning as they do not address the fundamental issue which is, that it is unrealistic to expect people to adequately live on $250 a week in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The new relief payment can be applied for, from June 8th and is available for 12-weeks.
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