Former beneficiary gets biggest budget victory
Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni understands the effects of being on a benefit firsthand. On Thursday, she came full circle in claiming a delivery benefit to a massive $ 3.3 billion welfare program, writes political writer Jo Moir.
Carmel Sepuloni described the “relief” to have been able to announce a significant increase in benefits in this year’s budget.
“It means a lot because I know what it means for the people who are affected by it. ”
The reinstatement of the training incentive allowance for levels 4 to 7 under the NZQA was also satisfactory for the Minister.
“The ability to study at this level was taken away by the previous government and this is a change that I have personally wanted for a long time,” she said.
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As a single mother receiving a benefit, Sepuloni was granted access to the training incentive allowance, which eventually took her out of the benefit and went to work.
She says studies show that a child’s level of achievement is tied to his mother’s qualifications.
The $ 3.3 billion increase in social assistance will see all major benefits increase by $ 20 per week starting July 1 of this year.
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Then, in April, a second wave of increases will come, increasing benefit levels from $ 32 to $ 55 per adult per week.
In addition to this, families and whānau with children will receive an additional $ 15 per adult per week.
Students will also celebrate next year when the cost of living allowances and loans increase by $ 25 per week.
Sepuloni says some people say the government hasn’t done enough – or anything – to respond to recommendations made by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) in 2019.
“Obviously today is a milestone, and in some cases we have exceeded WEAG recommendations.
“We have come a long way to restore the dignity of our benefit system.”
Surviving on a benefit has always been difficult, and there is still a lot of stigma about it, Sepuloni said.
She doesn’t shy away from criticism she receives from child poverty activists about the progress, or perceived lack, in the welfare portfolio.
This is because one of his and the government’s goals is to “change the discourse on who has access to the welfare system”.
“When we’re… held to account, it actually helps with the public narrative.
“I think it’s really important to talk about it, it also helps behind the scenes because it puts pressure on the finance minister and others,” she said.
While it is up to the Minister of Finance to decide how much more will be invested in the social protection system, Sepuloni said she has “the political will to continue doing whatever we can to reduce child poverty. “.