Access to hardship grants hits record high

This is the year of delivery for Jacinda Ardern’s government. So far, it hasn’t gone particularly well. First, they decided to stop publishing the number of houses built by Kiwibuild… mainly because it was becoming comical. Then the census became a total farce, which means that regional decisions and boundary changes will be made in the dark, if they are made at all. Capital gains tax has been dropped like a hot brick, without even offering the public a softened version of the TWG’s report, ostensibly because Winston was not having a bar of it.

Now Jacinda’s other priority, the reason she came into politics in the first place, is reaching new heights for all the wrong reasons. Jacinda always said she wanted to fix child poverty. There is no such thing as child poverty, of course ? children live in families, and the number of hardship grants to families has reached new highs in recent months. quote.

Figures from the Ministry of Social Development for the March 2019 Quarter showed that hardship assistance grants increased by $48 million in the past year.

They also showed the emergency housing grants went from $6.6m to $23m, and there were 70,000 extra requests for assistance for food.

National Social Development spokesperson Louise Uptson [sic] said the government promised to reduce child poverty, but more New Zealanders were struggling to live day-to-day.

“The Families Package they introduced last year was meant to help low income families and those families who were worse off.
“That absolutely hasn’t worked when we’ve seen significant increases in people seeking help for food and housing.”

end quote.

Over $100 million was paid out in hardship grants in the last 3 months of 2018. That is a huge amount of money given to people already struggling.

The reasons are obvious, of course. Mostly, it comes down to housing. If the government had actually developed a proper housing programme, including the building of adequate numbers of state houses, the chronic housing shortage would be starting to ease by now. They needed a proper plan, including making significant changes to the Resource Management Act, which they would probably never have got past their Green friends. Instead, they just yelled at National from the other side of the house and made grandiose promises they had no idea of how they were going to keep. One thing should have been clear to them, but wasn’t: if building 100,000 homes was as easy as they said it was going to be, National would have already done it. quote.

The benefit figures showed that more than 385,000 grants were made in the December quarter of 2018 – an increase of almost 95,000 on the same period the previous year.

RNZ. end quote.

One thing is for sure. The child poverty situation is not being improved at the moment. Things appear to be worsening for families at the bottom of the heap. Housing has become so expensive that it is taking up most of their incomes just to put a roof over their heads.

While I was not happy in any way to see a Labour-led government, I did think that they would at least try to do something for families on low incomes. Things have become considerably worse for such families since this government came into power. As we head into winter, more and more families will find themselves sleeping in cars, as the reality of rents and house prices continues to bite.

We won’t hear about it of course – we only hear about this when National is in power. Nevertheless, Labour came into government on the back of an ambitious programme of tax reform, building 100,000 houses and solving child poverty, but they didn’t have a clue how they were actually going to do any of it. Now, halfway through their term, the truth is out there. This government is an abysmal failure.

And it is failing children in low income families most of all.