Benefits increasing but more investment needed, minister claims

Sun, Mar 26

The rates for benefits are set to increase this week in line with inflation, but Carmel Sepuloni, minister for social development, says they're still not high enough for all New Zealanders to live in dignity.

Speaking on Q+A with Jack Tame this morning, Sepuloni said the number of Kiwis receiving Jobseeker benefits has gone up by around 50,000 because "we have had a significant economic event that we have endured".

"We have had a number of people end up on the benefit, but we've had more people exit as a result of the investments we've put in place," she said.

Despite the nationwide labour shortage, the minister said barriers like access to transport and childcare are stopping more Kiwis from moving into work.

Sepuloni said "we haven't" developed a culture of welfare dependency, "but what we have done is ensured any New Zealander who is eligible to be supported by the welfare system that they will get that support".

Child poverty statistics out this week showed the number of children being lifted out of poverty has plateaued.

However, she said higher benefits are not the sole answer for lifting children out of poverty — "that assists, but also things like what we've invested in, with food in schools, free period products, cheaper housing or more public housing".

Main benefits and superannuation rates will go up on April 1, with each family on a Jobseeker benefit set to receive $41 more each week.

It comes as unemployment is expected to spike over the next 12 months.

"Look, no one would ever try and say that living on a benefit is easy," Sepuloni said. "Are they enough for all New Zealanders to live with dignity? Certainly not all... it would depend on your circumstances."


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