National’s plans risk pushing families further into poverty

30th October 2019

Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) calls on the National party to reconsider policies on social services contained in a discussion document released today.

“National needs to take a more evidence and outcomes-focused approach to improving social services and user outcomes,” ANZASW Chief Executive Lucy Sandford-Reed said.

“Planned and floated policies in the document are heavily focused on punishment of welfare recipients, lack references to back up key assertions and positions, and appear to have been developed in minimal consultation with experts in relevant fields,” she noted.

A case in point is the centrepiece proposal of the document in which gang members who cannot prove they do not have income or assets from criminal activity will have their welfare payments stopped.

A comprehensive study of welfare conditionality from the UK demonstrated that poor outcomes resulted from punitive sanctions and offending did not decrease. Why would we see different effects in Aotearoa New Zealand?

It is estimated that thousands of family members of people in gangs will be impacted by this policy if it was to become law. ANZASW is seriously concerned that this could heighten the risk of family / whanau violence and push dependents into intensified income distress, raising, not reducing, the likelihood of offending by those affected.

Other policies floated in the discussion document echo this hard-line approach, such as proposals to withdraw benefits from single mothers who do not immunise their children and the imposition of time limits on unemployment payments to under-25s.

Aotearoa New Zealand needs a welfare and support system that is fair, outcomes-oriented and provides appropriate backup in times of difficulty. ANZASW invites the National Party to consult with social workers, those with lived experience and other experts to refine their policies.