Media

Paltry benefit increase a mean April Fool’s joke: urgent rise needed

 Media release Tuesday 31 March 2015

 

From April 1 working age benefits will rise by 0.51%.

“This paltry increase is nothing more than a mean April Fool’s joke on the poor,” says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sue Bradford.  “Working age benefits must be lifted now to levels people can actually live on.”

“The nett weekly base rate for a single person on Jobseeker Support aged 25 or older will go up by an extra $1.07 per week – $55.64 per year.

“The base rate for a sole parent will go up by a princely $1.53 per week – $79.56 per year.

“The annual increase in working age benefits is linked to inflation, which is low at present.

Tomorrow superannuation and veterans’ pensions will rise by 2.07%, in line with 66 % of the average wage.

“A single person on super will receive a $355.68 net weekly rate, contrasted with a single person on Jobseeker Support (25+) at $210.13 per week.  20-24 year olds are honoured with $175.10pw.

“This huge gap demonstrates just how far the chasm has grown between incomes deemed enough for our older citizens and those seen as sufficient for people who are unemployed, sick, injured, disabled and sole parents, who still have to eat, pay for housing and all other necessities of life.

“In recent years there have been endless reports and inquiries into issues around poverty and inequality, with even the conservative Maxim Institute calling today for better ways to define and measure poverty as a prerequisite of improved policy making.

“It is high time for National – and all political parties – to stop wringing their hands about child poverty and growing inequality and actually do something about the incomes of adults who are left destitute on a daily basis as a result of the desire to make the income gap between paid work and benefits as wide as possible.

On Sunday Maori Party co leader Marama Fox appealed to National to lift benefits.

“Auckland Action Against Poverty supports her demand, and calls on all parties across Parliament to back urgent increases.

“Until benefits are lifted to amounts people can actually live on, poverty and inequality will deepen daily.  This needs to happen now, not in two and a half years’ time – or longer.

ENDS

AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release Sunday 8 December

National barbeques while welfare burns: Picket today at Nat’s Xmas BBQ

 Today John Key and the National Party are holding a Christmas BBQ at the Auckland Grammar Old Boys Pavilion.

 Auckland Action Against Poverty will be paying them a visit, with a picket from 6.00pm – Gate 4, Mountain Road, Epsom.

 “Christmas is traditionally a time to reflect back on the achievements of the past year,” says AAAP spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

 “For National, their 2013 ‘achievements’ include creating yet more draconian rules for beneficiaries; eroding the rights of our most vulnerable; attacking women and parenting; and blaming the unemployed for the Government’s failure to create jobs.

 “The result is widespread despair, inadequate standards of living and – as the latest UNICEF report has shown – ongoing poverty, particularly for sole parents and Maori and Pasifika.

 “These are not great achievements and John Key and his mates at the Party for the Rich should not be celebrating. So today we are going to let them know that they must be held accountable for their war on the poor. Their party has gone on far too long already.”

 ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release Friday 6 December

Party for the rich has gone on long enough: Picket planned for Nats’ Xmas BBQ

This coming Sunday John Key and the National Party are holding a Christmas BBQ at the Auckland Grammar Old Boys Pavilion.

Auckland Action Against Poverty will be paying them a visit, with a picket from 6.00pm Sunday 8 December – Gate 4, Mountain Road, Epsom.

“We want to let John Key and his mates know that their party for the rich has gone on long enough,” says AAAP spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

“This week’s preposterous proposal from Chester Borrows to investigate all sole parent beneficiaries for potential fraud after 14 weeks is yet another example of the bogey of ‘fraud’ being used as an excuse for further harassment and invasion of privacy.

“The real problem with current Work and Income operations is that many people are getting less assistance than they’re entitled to, not more.

“National simply wants to get as many people out of the system as possible, no matter the harm done to sole parents, the sick, the disabled – and their children.

“Between July and September 2706 sole parents had their benefits cut by 50% because they supposedly weren’t doing a good enough job of looking for paid work, at a time when hundreds of thousands of people who aren’t raising young kids on their own are unemployed and desperately seeking work.

“National’s welfare policies are all about trading the health and wellbeing of vulnerable people for votes in election after election.

“John Key and his party must be held to account for their war on the poor. Their party has gone on far too long already.”

ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release Wednesday 4 December 2013

Latest proposal insidious attack on sole parents

The Ministry of Social Development’s proposal to check for the presence of partners at the homes of all sole parents is a waste of government time and money which will only increase the harassment of families already under surveillance stress, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

Living arrangements are complicated, as is the test to see if a relationship is legally in the nature of marriage. Often beneficiaries are not in a marriage-like relationship as recognised by MSD, even when they think they might be.

No contractor on a Big Brother visit could possibly ascertain whether fraud is being committed. Extra shoes at the front door don’t prove a marriage-like relationship, nor does an extra toothbrush, photographs of couples, nor even DNA samples from the bedroom.

Currently only 1 in 10 of those investigated for fraud are prosecuted. This proposal will add to the thousands of lives unnecessarily raked over the coals – beneficiaries, their families and even flatmates – all in the name of being ‘helpful’.

Rather than seeing sole parents – predominantly women – as people who may have escaped from violent relationships, been deserted by partners, or that are doing the hard important work of raising our future generation, this proposal presumes them to be fraudsters attempting to cheat the system.

Borrows’ claim that these visits are intended to be helpful and check that people have what they need would be laughable if this wasn’t such an insidious attack on beneficiaries.

It’s not as if these contractors are turning up with a food grant or temporary additional support application – the kind of help sole parents are likely to require when struggling to provide for their families” says Ms Thompson.

All one need to do to know how much of a failure this new proposal will be is to look to the not so distant past where fraud investigators created the ‘million dollar club’ to celebrate those whose prosecutions reached this amount, or the findings of an MSD review of overpayments established due to the nature of marriage which resulted in the reversal of over $35 million of debt wrongly held to be owed by almost 3000 beneficiaries.”

Auckland Action Against Poverty will be holding a picket to draw attention to this and the National Government’s other failed welfare policies at the National Party Christmas BBQ this Sunday the 8th of December from 6pm, Auckland Grammar, Gate 4 Mountain Road, Epsom.

ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release Thursday 17 October 2013

Benefit figures nothing to boast about Paula

Every time Paula Bennett boasts about a drop in numbers of people on benefits, she is indicting herself for crimes against the most vulnerable people in New Zealand.

“Our recent beneficiary impact in New Lynn (www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KlFwdD1-Ak) demonstrated with a vengeance that National’s regime means that many people are denied or pushed off benefits to which they are entitled,” says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

“Assisting hundreds of beneficiaries over three days left us with graphic evidence of a failed, incoherent welfare system whose whole purpose is now to reduce entitlement by fair means or foul, with no regard for the consequences.

“Through our advocacy work we find that people are often so distressed by their experiences with Work and Income that they will do anything to avoid registering for a benefit; won’t ask for what they desperately need in supplementary assistance; or are simply denied support altogether.

“We recently worked with a man who had been incorrectly refused Jobseeker Support back in February, and it wasn’t until he came to us in September that he was able to get the benefit he’d been eligible for all that time.

“Meanwhile he had been borrowing money and selling off possessions to try and ensure his family’s survival.

“The day after the impact we were told that a person with mental health issues had committed suicide as a result of the new MSD work testing regime.

“While we cannot confirm or give details of that case, we believe it is likely to be true, and that such a tragedy is the ultimate effect of policies which subject many thousands of mentally and physically sick, injured and disabled people to the Government’s new work testing regime.

“Auckland Action Against Poverty would be delighted if John Key and Paula Bennett were creating new jobs and genuinely helping the desperately unemployed into decent work.

“But sadly this is not what is reflected in the lower beneficiary numbers announced today.

“Instead, they are an indictment of National’s welfare policies, not something anyone should be gloating about.”

ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media Release Thursday 12 September 2013

Tales of despair: from the streets of New Lynn … Ranui … Glen Eden…

Even seasoned advocates running a beneficiary ‘impact’ outside Work and Income in New Lynn this week have been shocked at the numbers of people in dire need says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sue Bradford.

In the last few days we have worked with many families who are living with constant hunger and cold, and who are having to wash all their clothes by hand in the middle of winter.

We’ve helped people who are seriously ill but still hounded to find work as a ‘Job Seeker’ rather than being paid the Supported Living Allowance they are entitled to.

We are finding many who have been turned down for Work and Income assistance to which they are entitled, or who are on the wrong benefits, meaning they are trying to survive on even less money than an already minimal welfare system allows them.

If our experience in New Lynn this week is anything to go by, thousands of New Zealanders of all ages have had an already marginal existence made even tougher because of Paula Bennett’s welfare policies and departmental inadequacies.

On top of that, Government housing policies which have severely reduced access to state housing mean many beneficiaries are simply unable to find or afford decent accommodation and are living in damp, overcrowded and filthy conditions.

It is deeply ironic that while there is huge angst about the difficulty middle class families have in buying a suitable home, there is little public mention of the families living in cars, garages or being shunted from one unsuitable situation to another.”

Today is the last day of our ‘impact’, and media are invited to attend at any time between 9.00am – 1.00pm outside the New Lynn Work & Income office, 5/9 Hugh Brown Drive.

An ‘impact’ involves three days of intense individual beneficiary advocacy, helping hundreds of people obtain their full entitlements from Work & Income.

AAAP and other advocacy groups have joined together to provide up to 25 advocates each day, while Work & Income has put on an additional 20 staff to deal with the extra work. A short video from the impact is attached.

ENDS

Watch video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rYttbqVDwY&feature=youtu.be

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release Thursday 5 September 2013

Auckland Action Against Poverty to make an Impact

 Auckland Action Against Poverty intend to make an impact with beneficiaries and low wage workers next week says AAAP spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

Following on from our first beneficiary ‘Impact’ last December, we will be hosting our second event:

9am – 4.30pm Tuesday 10 – Wednesday 11 – Thursday 12 September 2013

Work & Income office 5/9 Hugh Brown Drive, New Lynn.

During this three day period AAAP, in conjunction with advocates from around the North Island, will provide one-on-one advocacy to beneficiaries, unemployed people and low wage workers who may need assistance with Work and Income issues.

Anyone who seeks our support with Work and Income is welcome at next week’s ‘Impact,’ without an appointment. Advocates on duty will do our best to help everyone who turns up, with the assistance of a number of extra staff whom MSD has put on especially for the occasion.

As a result of Paula Bennett’s welfare reforms, beneficiaries need advocacy support more than ever. All too often people have been refused legitimate assistance, with benefits being cut left, right and centre.

At least 9 out of every 10 people seen by our advocacy service have been incorrectly or unfairly denied assistance. This ranges from being denied a benefit altogether when Work and Income have incorrectly assumed someone is living in a de facto marriage, to Work and Income not applying discretion in a case where a mother needs additional assistance for food.

The culture of blame and suspicion which Paula Bennett has whipped up makes it near impossible for people to receive the assistance they are entitled to.”

ENDS

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The powerless and the poor are the first casualties of neofacism, not social media citizens

By Sue Bradford of AAAP

16 August 2013 for The Daily Blog

Each week that goes by at the moment feels like another hammer blow against the health an wellbeing of our country and our people.

We all know that democracy is taking a huge hit through the GCSB bill. Huge respect to all of you who are organising and fighting against its almost inevitable passage.

Another kind of hit is taking place too. It’s a lot more gradual, but its impact is so damaging that some individuals and some families will never fully recover.

I’m talking, no surprises here, about Paula Bennett’s welfare reforms.

The second big lot kicked in last month and already beneficiary advocacy services like our group Auckland Action Against Poverty are seeing the results: women close to retirement age and caring for grandchildren harassed daily by Work and Income to get paid work; people with major mental and/or physical issues threatened and intimidated, resulting in incalculable harm to their health and that of those around them; drug testing used as a sharp and simple way to get people off the benefit – and into what?

I sometimes think that John Key, Paula Bennett and all their crew will only be happy when they’ve returned Aotearoa to some 21 with beggars on every pavement, abandoned children at employers’ doors and thievery an everyday mode of existence for the poor. There are moments when I suspect we’re just about there already.

Yesterday a timely news article ‘Doctors told to prescribe work ethic’ reminded us all of the role medical professionals are increasingly expected to play as an integral part of MSD’s new sanctioning regime.

I would like to challenge nurses, doctors and other professionals out there to consider the part you may be playing – now or in the future – in practically assisting the Government to cause direct physical and mental harm to your patients.

Are your professional bodies discussing the ethics of this? Are you and your representatives taking it up with Government? Or are you sitting back and grumbling a bit, but just letting it happen, or even worse, actively complying with an unspeakable infringement of the Hippocratic oath?

We know the Government is also in the process of contracting out new so called employment services for people with mental health issues to private and NGO providers, services which will be used as a significant weapon in National’s war in the poor.

I understand that not all providers are sucked in by the Government’s ‘work first’ rhetoric, but I fear that others will believe the myth that paid work trumps all and chase the cash incentives, even when those in the mental health field should be the first to realise that for many just surviving through another day of wellness is a triumph of energy and will.

Yes, extending the state’s spy and surveillance reach is an appalling move towards creeping neofascism.

But I do sometimes wish that those who care about democracy might at times give a little more support, on the street, financially, and in other ways, to those groups who are fighting quite a different battle, against huge odds, for those who have the very least in Aotearoa right now.

If you live in Auckland and you or a family member or friend need help with a Work and Income issue, please feel free to contact AAAP for assistance ph 634 0591. Interested in supporting AAAP? See our website

– See more at: http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/08/16/the-powerless-poor-are-the-first-casualties-of-neofascism-not-social-media-citizens/#sthash.GvBMufDB.dpuf

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Welfare reforms an attack on beneficiaries

AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release Monday 15 July 2013

Auckland Action Against Poverty will hold information stalls outside three Work and Income offices on Monday the 15th of July – media and public welcome.

 The latest welfare reforms, which come into effect today, will have a brutal impact on the well-being of hundreds of thousands of children and adults who are dependent on the state for survival, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

 “All New Zealanders who end up on welfare will have more hoops to jump through – or face punitive measures as the Government attempts to push them into low-paid insecure work – no matter what the downstream cost.

 “This is not about getting people into decent work – it’s not about job creation. It’s about cutting costs by pushing vulnerable people off the books.

 “AAAP has already been working with increased numbers of beneficiaries over the past couple of months as more and more beneficiaries are being sanctioned for any accidental misstep – or sanctioned due to Work and Income error.

 “In addition, Work and Income’s gate-keeping culture has seen a growing number of people being incorrectly denied both financial support and the right to even apply for various supports.

 “Both of these measures – sanctions and gate-keeping – are used by the Ministry of Social Development to keep numbers and costs down, and the latest welfare reforms will be the newest big stick in their artillery.

 “AAAP will be stepping up both its one-on-one advocacy and political work calling for a programme of decent job, a living wage and higher benefit payment rates.”

 ENDS

AAAP stalls and times, Monday 15 July 2013:

10.30am-11.15am Waitakere Work and Income, Sel Peacock Drive, Henderson

12.00pm-12.45pm Queen St Work and Income, 450 Queen Street

1.30pm – 2.15pm Mangere Work and Income, 93 Ascot Avenue

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release Saturday 6th July 2013

Ban on Beggars Ignores the Real Problem

 Auckland Action Against Poverty will support a protest opposing the ‘anti-beggar’ by-law proposal from noon today outside Smith and Caughey’s on Queen Street.

The proposed Auckland Council by-law, which Smith and Caughey’s has requested, not only unfairly targets the poor, but also completely ignores real solutions to the poverty, homelessness, mental health, and addiction issues that are at the heart of begging, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

“People turn to begging in the street because they are unable to make ends meet through other means. We know from our experience that this is in part caused by the incorrect denial of welfare assistance by Work and Income, punitive benefit sanctions, and the inadequacy of benefit payment rates.

“We don’t need bans on people that try to hide our city’s poverty problems, we need real solutions such as decent job creation, an end to the current welfare reforms, and the introduction of a universal basic income.

“The council has an economic and social responsibility to their people and instead of banning begging, their top priority should be major resourcing and other support for housing and jobs, and lobbying government for decent welfare policies.

“We will be joining other organisations and concerned members of the community to tell Smith and Caughey’s that their disdain for the poor is the real nuisance on our streets.”

ENDS

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Media release Wednesday 18 June 2013

Paula Bennett – a driver of crime

Tonight’s ‘Safer Communities’ meeting held by Paula Bennett was not only hypocritical but a gross misuse of parliamentary funding, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

We held our loud and strong picket tonight to point out the hypocrisy of Bennett talking about safer communities when she and her welfare reforms are some of the greatest threats we face.

Ongoing poverty and the denial of a decent income has the potential to result in an increase in theft, drug dealing, homelessness and domestic violence in addition to the physical harm caused by poor health, decreased self-esteem and depression.

While Bennett spoke of ways to decrease the ‘drivers of crime’ through increased police numbers, hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders (at the hands of her and Work and Income) go without the bare necessities – a form of violence and insecurity in itself.

With the second wave of reforms due to hit on July 15 even more will be worse off, facing punitive sanctions for any misstep.

Protestors tonight outnumbered those who turned out to hear Bennett – despite the multitude of billboards with Bennett’s smarmy face advertising the event around Waitakere.

Tonight we sent Paula Bennett a loud message letting her know that poverty is violence, and our communities would be safer without her and her welfare reforms.”

ENDS

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Media release Tuesday 18 June 2013

Safer Communities Without Bennett

Auckland Action Against Poverty will picket Paula Bennett’s hypocritical public meeting entitled ‘Safer Communities’, at her office, 429 Great North Road, Henderson. The protest will begin at 6:40pm this evening, Tuesday 18 June.

Bennett is one of the biggest threats to our community, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

Bennett’s welfare reforms do nothing to address the ‘drivers of crime’, instead they make things worse for vulnerable parents and children by implementing sanctions and destroying the trusting relationships between parents and healthcare providers.

Poverty is violence and the latest stage of welfare reforms will only increase this twofold.

Many of Bennett’s reforms have already failed overseas and the sanctions proposed have the potential to result in an increase in theft, drug dealing, homelessness and domestic violence.

In addition, increased poverty can lead to poor health, decreased self-esteem and depression.

Specialist evidence from the Ministry of Health, the NZ Drug Foundation, the Children’s Commissioner and the disability sector has highlighted that the latest wave of welfare reforms will significantly harm those who receive government assistance.

We will be sending Paula Bennett a loud message, letting her know that poverty is violence, and our communities would be safer without her and her welfare reforms.”

Auckland Action Against Poverty invites everyone who shares our concerns about the safety of our communities to join us in our picket this evening. Media welcome.

ENDS

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Media release Thursday 28 May 2013

KickStart expansion a token gesture

The limited expansion of the KickStart Breakfast programme is yet another token gesture as National makes a cynical pretense of caring, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Michael Brenndorfer.

Committing less than $2 million a year for five years is paltry and insulting. By making businesses carry the can and most of the financial responsibility for the KickStart programme, National is entrenching private charity as the way to ensure our kids don’t go hungry. But poverty is a social issue and a public – government – responsibility,” said Brenndorfer.

The KickStart programme is an insufficient version of Hone Harawira’s food-in-schools bill – it provides no lunch, and the breakfast will be limited and lacking in nutritional variety.

Key is stressing that it should be the parents’ responsibility to feed their children. But the reality is that beneficiary families do not have enough money to do so. If children are going to school hungry, in the vast majority of cases this means their parents have been hungry for longer.”

Contrary to their boasts, John Key and Paula Bennett’s welfare reforms are set to make life even harder for children growing up in New Zealand.

Child poverty is a result of adult poverty, the solutions to which are decent job creation, a living wage, and a universal basic income.”

ENDS

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Auckland Action Against Poverty Media Release

Media release – Thursday 16 May

Budget targets poor, not poverty

 Earlier this week Bill English talked about ‘targeting poverty.’

“In fact, today’s budget targets the poor, not poverty,” says Sarah Thompson, spokesperson for Auckland Action Against Poverty.

“In almost every way, this Budget means life will become harder for those already struggling to survive.

“Bill English restates National’s commitment to an ‘unrelenting focus on work’ as the goal of their welfare policies, while maintaining a zero commitment to employment creation.

“The one exception to this is the creation of 354 new extra jobs at Work and Income as part of the welfare reforms already passed into law.

“These new staff will be part of National’s ‘unrelenting focus on work’ which will see many more sole parents, sickness and invalids’ beneficiaries harassed and intimidated into competing for the identical low wage, insecure jobs as the unemployed and underemployed.

“All this means is that the same people will be constantly recycled between paid work and the benefit system.

“Nor does Bill English take into account the faltering Australian economy and what will happen if Australia no longer remains a safety valve for unemployment here.

“In one of Nationals’ most shocking moves, all state and other social housing tenancies will become subject to review, which means any form of long term housing security will become a hopeless dream for many.

“This is a total repudiation of the purpose of state housing as originally conceived in the 1930s.

“The shift of housing need assessments from Housing New Zealand to MSD may make sense, especially as Housing New Zealand have been doing such an awful job of it lately.

“However, it will be critical that Work and Income staff take this new obligation seriously and don’t play the same destructive games in this area as they do so often when assessing peoples’ benefit entitlements.

Auckland Action Against Poverty invites everyone who shares our disgust at National’s continuing attacks on those living in poverty to join us on a picket tomorrow. Media welcome.

11.00am Friday 17 May – Vector Arena, Auckland – Picket of John Key who is speaking about the Budget to the Trans-Tasman Business Circle at 11.30am.

ENDS.

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release – Thursday 2 May 2013

Manukau Pak ’n Save paying poverty wages

Auckland Action Against Poverty is joining a FIRST Union picket outside the Manukau Pak ‘n Save at 67 Cavendish Drive at 8.30am this morning.

“After our collective success yesterday in sending a message to Pak ‘n Save Royal Oak, we’re heading to Manukau Pak ‘n Save today to let them know they can’t get away with 90 day contracts and nil wage rises,” says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

“Pak ‘n Save Manukau and its owner Stephen Lockie make huge profits every day off the backs of hard-working staff.

“Auckland Action Against Poverty thinks it is totally unfair that employees at this store are being offered no wage rise this year.

“We also reckon it stinks that a big company like this uses the 90 day rule for its staff, which means that new workers can be fired any time during their first three months on the job.

“That’s why our group is supporting FIRST Union in their struggle to get a well-deserved pay rise for workers here and to get rid of the 90 day rule from this store.”

AAAP and FIRST Union also picketed outside Royal Oak Pak ‘n Save this week, to protest that supermarket’s 90 day rule and introduction of youth rates.

AAAP is an activist advocacy group made up of unemployed workers, beneficiaries, students, low wage workers and others who support our kaupapa of decent jobs and a living wage for all.

ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release – Wednesday 1 May 2013

Youth rates no solution to unemployment – AAAP joins Pak N Save picket

Auckland Action Against Poverty is joining a FIRST Union picket outside the Royal Oak Pak n Save at Manukau Rd at 8.30am this morning.

The store is trying to introduce youth rates in line with the new law which comes into effect today.

“Paying young workers $11 an hour will not help create jobs,” says AAAP spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

“We know that as time goes by older workers will simply be displaced by younger ones at lower wages, shuffling people on and off the dole queue.

“It’s also unacceptable that under the new law 18 and 19 year olds may be forced on to youth rates if they have been on the benefit for six months or more.

“If any company can afford to pay proper wages, it’s Pak n Save, which at Royal Oak might be more aptly named ‘Pak n Slave’.

“These Pak n Saves are enormous money spinners for their owners.”

“This particular store can certainly afford to pay its workers more than $11 an hour.

AAAP also supports the demand by Royal Oak workers for more than a nil wage rise this year, which is all their employer is offering.

“It’s grossly unfair that profitable companies like this are making the most of a business friendly government to keep wages as low as possible.

AAAP is an activist advocacy group made up of unemployed workers, beneficiaries, students, low wage workers and others who support our kaupapa of decent jobs and a living wage for all.

ENDS

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Labour – whose side are you on? Time to come clean on welfare & jobs

By Sue Bradford of AAAP

24 April 2013 for The Daily Blog

On another current political battleground, however, Labour remains as dubiously shifty as ever. When it comes to welfare and jobs, I still have no clue as to where Labour stands in the face of the Bennett-Rebstock rampage.

It was great to see Labour and the Green Party come out with their proposal for a single state-owned buyer of electricity last week.

Ah hah, I thought. At last Labour – perhaps spurred on by their new best friends the Greens – have found some courage. And lovely to see John Key accusing the two parties of sabotage and ‘far-Left’ politics. Couldn’t be further from the truth, but it lifts the spirits to see some spark finally emerging from the centre left.

On the electricity front, the big question of course is whether Labour and the Greens will actually action their proposal once they’re warming the government benches. I remember all too well how Labour lost its bottle on the employment relations front in the face of massive business opposition in the winter of 2000, despite a recent election victory and the Alliance being part of that government.

But good luck to them, and may both parties remain true to their single-buyer promise.

On another current political battleground, however, Labour remains as dubiously shifty as ever. When it comes to welfare and jobs, I still have no clue as to where Labour stands in the face of the Bennett-Rebstock rampage.

Well meaning MPs like Jacinda Ardern and Carol Beaumont make resounding speeches in the House opposing National’s brutal welfare bills.

However, what many of us out here in the real world really want to know is whether Labour will legislate to overturn the reforms in all their awful detail when their party becomes part of government again?
There has been no clear statement on this from Labour at any point.

Over the last few decades, Labour has been as culpable as National when it comes to its approach to welfare and decent job creation.

Roger Douglas and co in the 1980s methodically wiped out hundreds of thousands of jobs, decimated small town New Zealand, ended full wage job creation schemes (now looked back on with great fondness by many in districts currently hard hit by unemployment) and began the first work for dole scheme since the Depression.

Labour in the 2000s never even attempted to lift benefit levels to their equivalent before National’s 1991 cuts; got rid of the Special Benefit which made the difference between survival and desperate penury for many; reintroduced no-go zones in a number of rural and provincial areas, making it even harder for working age people to stay in or return to their home districts; established massive structural discrimination against the children of beneficiaries via the In Work Tax Credit portion of Working for Families; and undermined in legislation the very purpose of social security as established by their forebears in 1938.

Paula Bennett and John Key have ridden in on the back of Labour’s 2000s welfare changes to cement in a culture and practice which foments our country’s unfortunate disposition towards hatred of beneficiaries, as evidenced by the recent report showing that those dependent on income support are now the most discriminated against group of people in Aotearoa.

Last week a Labour MP told me that her party does not plan to make any announcements on welfare policy till some time not long before the 2014 election.

That’s just not good enough.

David Shearer’s sickness beneficiary on a roof speech was naively revealing of his true feelings about beneficiaries. His lack of regret since then about what he said and how he said it simply shows that he, too, buys into the blind prejudice so prevalent in our communities.

In the face of Shearer’s speech and the lack of any commitment to turn back National’s reforms, every day that goes by only deepens the sense that Labour is still stuck in the same conservative, blinkered space on welfare and jobs.

We need a clear positioning statement soon, or the suspicion will be that Labour is going to carry on as usual, perhaps making small superficial changes for the better, but not dealing with the finely tuned cruelty of our complex welfare system and the total lack of any Government commitment to full wage job creation.

I challenge Labour to tell us where you really stand, well before election year.

Come clean on whether you’ll wipe out the Nats’ reforms of the past two years, or let them ride.
Show us that you’re interested in real solutions on welfare, poverty and unemployment, like full wage job creation, the fair application of Working for Families to all children, and a move towards a Universal Basic Income.

People are suffering now, day in and day out, and once the impacts of the latest social security legislation come into force, that suffering is only going to deepen.

I’d love to see your party apply a little intelligence to the situation, rather than blind prejudice.
The pledge to establish a single buyer of electricity is well and good, but how about showing some courage on another, more desperate front, and recall on whose votes the Labour Party first rode to power – the unemployed workers of the 1930s.

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release Monday 15 April 2013

No joy in falling beneficiary numbers, fraud stats

We take no joy at all in seeing the number of beneficiaries drop under Paula Bennett’s regime, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

 “While we hope that at least some of these statistics represent happy outcomes, our experience carrying out frontline beneficiary advocacy tells us that in fact many of those pushed out of the benefit system are not going into decent jobs at all, but into an appalling limbo without either paid work or income support.

 “We also wonder how many other people didn’t get jobs – or have fewer paid hours – because a struggling single mum or person on a sickness benefit has been forced by Work and Income to take the job or the extra hours someone else needs for survival.

 “National’s welfare changes are all about recycling the desperate, the poor and the unemployed, not about decent jobs or quality of life for beneficiaries and their children.

 “And in regards to the Ministry of Social Development’s other announcement on numbers ‘caught’ receiving welfare overpayments – from the figures given, there is no telling how many of these 525 cases would have been picked up anyway.

 “There has always been an issue around people continuing to receive benefits when they’ve started work. The cross over is sometimes only one or two weeks and is as frequently Work and Income’s fault as it is that of the person concerned.

 “Chester Burrows is deliberately manipulating and trumpeting these statistics to deepen the opprobrium National is so keen to attach to beneficiaries.

 “With his Social Security (Fraud Measures and Debt Recovery) Amendment Bill due for its first reading in Parliament sometime soon, Mr Borrows is obviously keen to set the scene for the third round of Government beneficiary-bashing.

 “Auckland Action Against Poverty believes that ultimately the only real solution to this horrendous blame and shame culture is the introduction of a universal basic income which will do away with this whole state apparatus of control, which is more reminiscent of a totalitarian state than of a free and compassionate society.”

 ENDS

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The strange case of Paula Bennett

By Sue Bradford of AAAP

10 April 2013 for The Daily Blog

Paula Bennett is becoming more and more blatant in her persona as the face of National’s war on the poor.
In this morning’s Herald she says, “… I think living on the full DPB is hard. I don’t know how you can live on 50%.”

Yet Paula Bennett’s welfare reforms are the very vehicle by which more and more people are being sanctioned.

Sanctions can mean having your benefit cut by 50%, losing it altogether – or never being granted assistance in the first place.

The government’s own figures show that over the last six months an average 4,654 beneficiaries a month have had at least half their benefit taken from them, or had it cut completely.

Last month, in March 2013, 5,600 people were officially sanctioned.

The latest welfare reform legislation which passed through Parliament last night on a vote of 61-59 – the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Act – is only going to make things a whole lot worse.

In the past National has boasted about not replicating its infamous ’91 benefit cuts.
Yet what they’re doing at the moment is just as bad as what they did back then, and a lot more insidious.

I am really fearful of what is to come.

In a time of high unemployment, these changes are simply going to force more and more of the already disadvantaged into competing for what low wage, insecure jobs do exist.

Many more sole parents, disabled, sick and injured people are going to be work tested – and drug tested with sanctionable consequences – as a result of Bennetts’ reforms.

Women who dare to have babies while on welfare face work testing from the time their child is one year old.

And as we can see, the numbers of people being sanctioned is already increasing exponentially.

Benefit rates are wildly variable depending on circumstances and whether your local Work & Income officer grants you your full entitlement, but just to give you some idea of what we’re talking about here, the current net DPB rate is $295.37 a week (half = $147.68); the unemployment benefit rate for a single person aged 22 is $171.84pw (half = $85.92).

The results of all this will be tragic and costly.

More and more people will live in various forms of homelessness – in boarding house rooms, garages, sheds, tents, cars and already overcrowded houses – or outside, in bus shelters, doorways, beaches and parks.

More and more will not have enough to eat each week, much less have adequate heating this winter.
All the reports on child poverty in the world are useless in the face of a Government which deliberately inflicts deepening poverty on people every day of the week.

Paula Bennett displays an amazing honesty when she says she doesn’t know how people can raise a family on half the DPB and that she has ‘concerns’.

Yet she is the Minister responsible for taking the axe to our welfare system, and to peoples’ lives.
I continue to struggle with what kind of disconnection is happening in her mind.

National loves her. She’s doing a much better job than Jenny Shipley ever did at fronting harsh welfare changes.

Much better to have a Maori woman, a former solo mum, taking the lead, than a former school teacher from the white South Island heartlands.

And Bennett knows what she’s doing.

She knows it even more than someone like Shipley, which makes her leadership role in this even worse.
Paula Bennett’s seeming naivety and smiling, bubbly front mask a long, deep commitment to National’s ideology – a belief in helping the already-rich get richer while the poor are forced into ever deeper poverty, no matter the downstream social and economic costs.

I’m no psychologist, but I’m sure there’s a name for the psychopathy she so evidently displays – a complete disconnect between ‘caring for people’ and the ideological principles which drive her political career.

Shame on her – and shame on every single person who voted for her and for National at the last election.

We are all reaping what you have sown.

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release Tuesday 9 April 2013
Beneficiaries receive biggest boot in the guts since ’91 cuts

Beneficiaries are to receive the biggest boot in the guts since the infamous ’91 cuts says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

“The Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill will see ordinary New Zealanders become collateral damage in Bennett’s race to move 100,000 people off welfare, no matter the cost.

“This Bill is not about supporting people into work as National’s mantra would have us believe.

“Instead, it aims through sanctions, obligations, work tests, drug tests and work ability assessments to drastically increase the number of people forced to compete for low wage, insecure work.

“This is all within the current climate of 284,000 jobless.

“AAAP calls for decent job creation at decent wages, and a total restructuring of our welfare system, including moving towards a Universal Basic Income.

“We’d also like to see every party opposing this bill give assurances that they will repeal all National’s abusive welfare changes should they be part of government following the 2014 election.”

ENDS

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Destroying lives to win votes: National’s anti-beneficiary rampage continues

By: Sue Bradford 27 March 2013

“This is not about helping people into better, more fulfilling lives. Instead, it is all about helping keep the wages and conditions of employed workers as low as possible by enforcing a race to the bottom for insecure, low paid work.”

Full blog post available on The Daily Blog here:

http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/03/27/destroying-lives-to-win-votes-nationals-anti-beneficiary-rampage-continues/

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release Thursday 21 March 2013

Welfare reforms will hurt not help

 Paula Bennett seems set on enacting reforms to the welfare system despite clear evidence from specialists that they will hurt vulnerable members of society, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

 “Expert evidence from the Ministry of Health, the NZ Drug Foundation, the Children’s Commissioner and the disability sector highlights that the latest wave of welfare reforms will significantly harm both families and children who rely on government assistance.

 “The repeated message from National MPs during the second reading of the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill was that these reforms will ‘support people into work’, yet no single clause in the Bill provides the support that the above groups or other submitters argue will lead to this end point.

 “The solutions demanded include decent job creation; financial support for, and access to, education; the removal of barriers to work such as the cost and provision of childcare; and increased access to drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

 “The Ministry of Health have previously given a strong and persistent warning to the Minister of Social Development that the sanctions relating to Wellchild checks would have serious, negative impacts on families and vulnerable children including risks of increased child maltreatment and neglect.

 “While it was (incorrectly) reported on Tuesday that NZ First was going to support the bill, we are pleased that in fact they have stuck to their principles as outlined in their Select Committee minority report.

 “Auckland Action Against Poverty calls on all parties to follow suit and reject this Bill at its third and final reading. People who receive benefits will return to employment when work is available and their health and family circumstances allow – not as a result of draconian welfare legislation.

 ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release Wednesday 13 February 2013

NZ Government continues to fail us all

Today’s Salvation Army report is yet another wake up call that National’s response to poverty, homelessness and unemployment is pitifully inadequate, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

 “We note that the Salvation Army have picked up a dangerous trend that we’ve observed for some time – the growing gap between the numbers of people out of work and those actually getting an unemployment benefit.

 As report author Alan Johnson says “We can’t understand how the benefit takeup has declined at the same time as joblessness has risen”.

 “One answer to this discrepancy, as experienced first hand by our advocates, is that some longstanding employees are pushed out of jobs, then made to wait 13 weeks or more before getting a benefit, when in fact they should be receiving it within 1-2 weeks.

 “Another factor is the whole drive by Work and Income to do everything possible to make life so unpleasant for people registering unemployed, that many simply give up early on in the process, if they apply at all.

 “These policies are driven by Paula Bennett’s determination to get 100,000 people out of the welfare system within 10 years, and will only contribute to deeper poverty, homelessness and despair.

 “We agree with Salvation Army spokesperson Major Campbell Roberts that an immediate and vigorous plan of action is needed, one that includes: ensuring all those who are eligible for a benefit are receiving their full entitlements; a programme of decent job creation; and a living wage for all.”

 ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release Thursday 31 January 2013

MSD role in contraception must go

Low MSD uptake figures confirm that the contraception programme instigated as part of National’s welfare reforms is all about stigmatising woman on benefits, rather than any genuine kind of support, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

 “This policy is simply another weapon in the war against women on benefits, implemented as a way of garnering the beneficiary bashing vote in time for the next election.

 “It’s a deep irony that the outright misogyny of recent welfare reforms, including this one, has been lead by two women- Paula Bennett and Paula Rebstock.

 “This blaming and shaming tactic can be seen in other proposed policies which attempt to paint beneficiaries as drug users and criminals who don’t care for their children.

 “Involvement by MSD in the provision of long term contraception should be scrapped immediately on both ethical and financial grounds.

 “The state should have no role in using its coercive influence to harass women in regards to their reproductive options.

 “The Family Planning Association already provide free contraceptive services to women up to 22, and charge $5 for Community Service Card holders over that age.

 “One useful thing Bennett could do would be to subsidise the FPA so that their health checks are free to all those holding CSC cards, and as cheap as possible for everyone else”.

 ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release 29 January 2013

Charity is Not the Answer

It is the Government’s job to provide for families in need – not that of charities, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

 “Charity is not the answer. This National lead Government and its supporting parties seem hell bent on taking us back to the 19th century and earlier where assistance for the poor and vulnerable depended on the good will of the wealthy and the churches.

 “National’s welfare reforms and some of Labour’s in the 2000s are taking us further and further away from the concept of the welfare state as developed in the 1930s and leading us back to draconian times.

 “Every time another charity picks up a ‘feed the kids’ or ‘provide them with shoes’ or other such programme, commendable though it may be from an individual point of view, it is another nail in the coffin of the welfare state.

 “Auckland Action Against Poverty believes it would be much better for the future of this country if some of the resources people are kindly giving to these charities went instead to groups like ours who are fighting for structural change, for a society where everyone has a chance at education, a decent job and a living wage.

 “Ultimately, people know how to care for their children but they need decent jobs to be created, a living wage, and higher benefit payment rates – all of which it is our Government’s job (not charities) to provide.”

 ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release 23 January 2013

AAAP supports Harawira Bill – Who wouldn’t want to feed the kids?

 Auckland Action Against Poverty supports the Education (Breakfast and Lunch in Schools) Amendment Bill sponsored by Hone Harawaira MP and we urge all political parties to support the Bill at its first reading in February, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

 “Research shows that food-in-school programmes have a positive impact on school attendance, learning achievement, and child health – for this reason alone, who wouldn’t want to feed the kids?

 “One of the best things about this Bill is that the meals will be available universally to children in decile 1 and 2 schools – this does away with the shaming and blaming of those who don’t have any or adequate food to bring to school with them,” says Ms Thompson.

 “As the Bill recommends, the provision of this food shouldn’t be left to charity but should be taxpayer funded – this will ensure greater access country-wide and decrease the dependance on the whims and follies of individual charities and businesses.

 “While we wholeheartedly support this Bill, we see it as just the beginning.

 “Auckland Action Against Poverty believes at least one good healthy funded meal a day should be provided for all children in publicly funded schools, as there is in many countries including the UK.

 “In addition, in the larger scheme of things, there is an urgent need for decent job creation, a living wage and higher benefit payment rates.”

 ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release 10 December 2012, 3pm

BENEFICIARY IMPACT SEES SHOCKING NEED FOR FOOD GRANTS

Auckland Action Against Poverty, along with advocates from the North Island, were shocked today to see such a saddening need for food grants at the Onehunga ‘Impact’, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

Over three quarters of the people we saw today needed a food grant in order to feed their family.

 “One woman, Jane, had been working 18 hours per week but then her job dried up. Her husband has just found 15 hours of work but with three children to feed, his pay just won’t cut it. She was happy to walk away with a $150 food grant but she said what they really wanted was a job with regular full time hours.

 “The same was true of Andrea, the mother of five children. Her husband earns $600 per week, but with five children and rent at $450, what’s left is not enough to keep them nourished. She too left with a food grant for $200.

 “There are additional forms of financial assistance, but unfortunately many people do not know they are available or, they’re being denied them unfairly. We look forward to seeing many more people tomorrow and Wednesday to ensure they’re receiving what is rightfully theirs.

 “In addition, from 12pm – 2pm on Tuesday, across from Onehunga Work and Income, AAAP will be hosting a ‘Recession Buster’ rally to challenge the Government on its lack of job creation. Jacinda Ardern, Jan Logie and John Minto will be in attendance to talk about their parties’ welfare policies, in addition to speakers from various community groups.

 “We hope that beneficiaries and low wage workers taking part in the Impact will have a chance to engage with some of the issues around welfare reform, as well as see that there are alternatives to National’s horrendous policies.

 “We are focusing on the Onehunga community for the Impact however all beneficiaries and low paid workers are welcome, bring I.D. We have quotes for essential items such as washing machines, vacuum cleaners, fridges and more.”

 ENDS

Video footage of event available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DN1Trun-JPM&feature=youtu.be

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release 29 November 2012, 4pm

Social Security Amendment Bill – Poorly researched and ideologically driven

Auckland Action Against Poverty will present their submission on the Social Security Amendment Bill to the Select Committee tomorrow morning at 10.35am, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

We will be letting the Committee know that we think this Bill is poorly researched and ideologically driven, and will go down in history as a cynical, invasive, petty, dishonest, illogical, authoritarian and counter-productive piece of welfare recession.

This Bill will change the aim of state welfare from a safety net to a tool of behaviour coercion.

Those in need of state assistance are going to be asked to jump through hoops that others are not and control over their lives will be taken away from them.

Only the noble poor – those deemed morally worthy of our help – will be given help – and they better not make mistakes.

In addition, punishment will be the main modus operandi of Work and Income. This will not only increase the stress of already stressful lives but overseas research and experience show that punitive measures will not work. Punishment is ineffectual in changing behaviour but sure as eggs, it will hurt the vulnerable.

The welfare system will become an interfering, invasive Nanny State with a big stick – for no gain. Punishment is not the way to change behaviour.

We will be letting the Select Committee know that what we need is Decent Job Creation, a living wage, recognition that care work is real work, a raise in the benefit payment rate and the full reinstatement of the Training Incentive allowance, not this counterproductive piece of welfare recession”.

 ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release 15 November 2012, 2.30pm

Nothing bouncy or humorous about NZ’s unemployment rate

Four Auckland Action Against Poverty supporters, including Sue Bradford, who locked on to the regional MSD office in October will appear in the Auckland District Court tomorrow, Friday the 16th of November at 10am pleading not guilty to charges of willful trespass.

Their demonstration was a call for decent job creation – not intimidation.

“Auckland Action Against Poverty’s determination to highlight the serious need for decent job creation – not intimidation, stands in strong contrast to Paula Bennett who continues to see unemployment figures as fodder for her attempts at comedy,” says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

“Judging by Bennett’s flip and dismissive comment yesterday that the job market is ‘bouncy’, she is not listening to the deep concerns of the unemployed and under-employed that not enough jobs are being created.

“Not only were her comments inappropriate they were inaccurate – there is nothing bouncy about the country’s unemployment rate – it is only going one way; up.

“New Zealand’s unemployment rate is rising 1.5 times faster than the OECD average. As Bennett would have it, based on her claims made in parliament yesterday, we are suddenly putting in 1.5 times less effort looking for work than the rest of the OECD.

“What research does Bennett have to back up her implication that people are not looking for jobs? The same research that shows that punitive sanctions will move people into work?

“We need decent job creation now – not Bennett relying on populist sentiment and stigma to account for this Government’s lack of effective policy.”

ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release 8th November 2012, 12pm

Welfare Reform Cruel Punishment During Rising Unemployment

“Figures released today showing the highest unemployment rate in 20 years are a clear indication that National’s welfare policy is cruel punishment for beneficiaries”, says Auckland Action Against Poverty Spokesperson Chris Zack.

“This government seems to think a solution to the now 175 000 unemployed is to punish beneficiaries rather than engage in the responsible task of creating opportunities for people.”

“We don’t have a benefit dependency problem, we have a job creation problem.”

“The second wave of welfare reforms recently introduced to Parliament is a textbook example of how this government’s policies towards beneficiaries are nothing but a cruel distraction from the real problems we have.”

“We are consistently shocked and appalled by the seemingly inept and basically non existent job creation strategies by the National Government. The market will not magically change for the better based on such unimaginative governance.”

“John Key previously promised a ‘brighter future’ with 170 000 more full-time jobs, these figures show how much of an incredible failure that promise has been.”

“AAAP remains committed to doing what we can to stop the second wave of welfare reforms that are currently before Parliament.”

ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release 2nd November 2012, 12pm

MSD Changes Need to Come from the Top

“Contrary to the belief of Paula Bennet, the Deloitte report shows us that there are serious systemic problems at MSD when it comes to the privacy and welfare of beneficiaries”, says Auckland Action Against Poverty Spokesperson Chris Zack.

“These are not merely operational matters but indicative of a serious culture of flippancy when it comes to not only beneficiaries privacy, but their wellbeing.”

“We are not convinced that this is merely a mistake of bureaucracy, and we await the second report from Deloitte on broader issues about the security of the Ministry’s information systems and the culture within the organisation.”

“Paula Bennet needs to take responsibility for these privacy breaches along with the fear, harm and mistrust among beneficiaries that is a result.”

“We would like to see this horrible matter be a catalyst for change within MSD. We want a fundamental change in the way MSD relates to beneficiaries. From one based on a disregard of privacy rights, fear and intimidation to a relationship where beneficiaries privacy and wellbeing is respected.”

“If Paula Bennet is not able to right the ship in this matter then perhaps it is time the job goes to someone who can.”

ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media Release Monday, October 15th, 12:00

No surprises with recent privacy breach

“The recent revelation that beneficiaries sensitive information was publicly available fits within MSD’s general cavalier attitude when it comes to privacy.” Says Auckland Action Against Poverty Spokesperson Chris Zack

“Paula Bennet and MSD have shown in the past that they are more than willing to part with the private information of those on benefits and we are worried this is a continuation of this general lack of concern”

“MSD’s lack of concern for privacy is very evident in the fact they were even informed of this breach a year earlier by a very respected beneficiary advocate.”

“We believe privacy breaches of this type will become more frequent if or when the second wave of welfare reforms are implemented.”

“MSD will soon have the power to oblige any beneficiary to attend an external contractor or face sanctions. These can include W.I doctors, work ability testing or budgeting services. External contractors are often private companies who may not have stringent privacy controls and the sheer amount of private information involved means we could expect more breaches of this sort.”

“MSD’s relaxed attitude towards privacy is a reflection of their general lack of concern for beneficiaries rights and we believe current and proposed welfare reform is only reinforcing this dangerous attitude.”

ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release 11 October 2012, 12pm

Bennett and Key—the Real Criminals

Six Auckland Action Against Poverty activists, including Sue Bradford, will appear in court tomorrow on charges of willful trespass for their part in the occupation of MSD last month, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

“We believe that John Key and Paula Bennett should instead be on trial for their hand in increasing poor health, education and life outcomes for our country’s most vulnerable children.

“There have been a number of policies recently released by Bennett and Key which are nothing short of criminal.

“The White Paper on vulnerable children and the Children’s Action Plan, released this morning, fail to address child poverty – one of the largest drivers of poor life outcomes.

“The recently announced Social Security Amendment Bill, along with the extension of the youth minimum wage will only lead to more people struggling to afford food, warm clothes and health care.

“And the increased use of sanctions by Work and Income which saw 57,168 people last year have their benefit withheld or canceled (versus 29,689 in 2008) equates to theft, and has left people with no means to get by.

“We believe that we have a moral obligation to stand up to these ferocious atrocities.

“What we need is decent job creation, a living wage and higher benefit rates. Anything less than this is a severe attack on the well being of NZers.

“AAAP will continue to fight back in opposition to these violent reforms.

“Five of the six, appearing on Friday the 12th of October at 10am at the Auckland District Court, are pleading non-guilty to the charges laid, with one requesting diversion.”

ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media Release

Thursday 27th September 2012, 2:00 pm

Anti Poverty Group Challenges John Key Charity Farce

AAAP will hold a picket outside a charity lunch tomorrow to highlight the hypocrisy of John Key raising money for kids while implementing destructive welfare reform.

The picket will start at 11:30 and will be held at 159 Lincoln Rd, Henderson.

“Raising money for the children’s ward of the Waitakere hospital is a worthwhile cause, however we strongly believe John Key should not get positive photo opportunities at a children’s charity lunch when his welfare policy will undoubtedly make life harder for kids growing up in New Zealand” says AAAP spokesperson Chris Zack.

“There are strong links between poverty and poor health outcomes for children yet John Key seems to think private sector charity can make amends for National’s increasingly tarnished reputation when it comes to inaction on tackling child poverty.”

“Key and his party are some of the greatest offenders on child health and his attendance at this event is offensive to families struggling to get by and facing poor health as a result.”

“If John Key cared to make a real difference to the lives of New Zealand’s 240 000 kids living in poverty he would go beyond charity and support a comprehensive social safety net that gives dignity to families struggling in tough economic times”.

ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media Release Monday 24th September 2012, 11:00 am

MSD OCCUPIERS APPEAR IN COURT, PREPARE FOR FURTHER ACTION

Anti poverty protesters who mounted an occupation of MSD’s office last week appeared in court this morning to respond to charges of willful trespass.

“Our occupation last week was a concerted attempt to directly challenge some of the horrendous welfare reforms that have been introduced to parliament. We strongly believe that these policies amount to punishing people for being poor rather than focusing on the real task of creating decent jobs and opportunities for people, says AAAP spokesperson Chris Zack.

“Though there are repercussions for us with this sort of action, we intend to continue fighting back and will do our best to highlight the destructive nature of National’s welfare reform.”

“In order to keep pressure on the government, we will be directing our attention to John Key this Friday. On September 28th, Mr Key will be attending an event in West Auckland raising money for a new childrens’ ward at Waitakere hospital. We believe it is highly ironic that the Prime Minister would raise money for kids when his party’s policies are going to cause even more child poverty, ill health and homelessness.”

“To highlight this absurd contradiction, AAAP will be hosting a picket outside the venue and we invite all supporters and their families to attend. The picket will be at Lincoln Green, 159 Lincoln Rd, Henderson at 11:30 sharp.”

“If John Key really cared to make a positive difference in children’s lives, he would stop and reverse these welfare reforms which would undoubtedly make life more difficult for New Zealand’s 240 000 children living in poverty.”

ENDS

 

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media Release Tuesday 18 September 2012, 2PM

 MSD HEAD OFFICE OCCUPIED IN WELFARE REFORM PROTEST

In a protest against the announcement yesterday of the latest stage in National’s welfare program, AAAP is currently mounting an occupation of MSD’s Head Office in Auckland.

The office is located at Level 2, Building A, 65 Main Highway, Ellerslie.

‘We believe that the Government’s ongoing attacks on beneficiaries are nothing less than a brutal assault on the wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of children – and adults – who are dependent on the state for survival,’ says AAAP spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

‘We are occupying MSD today not as an attack on MSD staff who are probably as concerned as we are about the impact of the proposed changes, but to expose and oppose the sheer brutality of National’s actions.

‘Paula Bennett boasts about saving $1.6bn.  In fact, these latest changes, when combined with earlier reforms, will mean massive downstream costs to the taxpayer.

‘Auckland Action Against Poverty calls for an immediate programme of Government job creation to help get unemployed people into decent work.

‘Job creation, not intimidation, is the answer to the current so called ‘crisis’ in welfare.

‘Many people will have been saddened by last night’s news item showing how few children in one low decile Auckland school have a decent lunch.

‘Once Bennett’s and Key’s reforms kick in, many more children will be going without food –  and a lot else besides.

‘These reforms are all about attracting votes by demonizing and punishing beneficiaries, not about helping anyone to a better life.

ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release 17 September 2012, 4.30pm

Latest reforms an atrocious attack on NZ’s most vulnerable

 The Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill is an atrocious attack on our countries most vulnerable, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

“We have already heard the damning issues with many of the announced policies over the passed two weeks but the latest announcement, which will see increased work ability assessments and work preparation expectations for those who are sick or living with disability, is even more horrendous.

“Increased work ability testing is incredibly stressful and has lead to suicides in the UK where a similar policy has been implemented. Beneficiary advocates in NZ have already been critical of the ‘hatchet doctors’ that Work and Income use in order to test such obligations.

“The use of such hatchet doctors will see many who are currently on the sickness benefit and the invalids benefit forced to undertake work preparation and to look for employment when their physical and mental health will not allow it.

“In addition, Bennett claims that benefit rates are not being cut, however, for those currently on the Invalids Benefit who are shifted onto Job Seeker Support there will be a very real decrease in their benefit rate making it even harder for people to get by.

“These latest changes highlight the new ‘investment approach’ with its focus on shifting people considered to have the highest ‘liability’ into work, yet attention is not being given to the barriers to employment.

“Since the end of 2008 NZ has lost 50,000 jobs and we already have 162,000 able bodied people (many without dependents) seeking work that is just not there. Bennett is in fantasy land if she thinks that these welfare reforms will therefore lead to 44,000 less people receiving a benefit – unless of course they come off benefit and move onto street corners.

“Placing increased pressure on those who have very real barriers to work is not going to solve the problem of increasing unemployment and poverty – decent job creation, higher benefit rates and a living wage would, however, go a long way.”

ENDS

 Info on disability suicide risk in UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/jun/20/jobcentre-supervisors-suicide-risk-benefit-claimants

Info on work capacity test in the UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/nov/25/harrington-report-incapacity-testing-simplistic

Info on ‘hatchet doctors’: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7686228/Winz-joins-ACC-in-firing-line-for-hatchet-doctors

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release 12 September 2012, 2.30pm

‘Investment approach’ not an investment in NZers well-being

Paula Bennett’s new so called ‘Investment approach’ will not be investing in the well-being of New Zealanders, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

“The key focus of the investment approach is to remove as many people as possible from the benefit rolls through whatever means necessary. In reality this will mean that beneficiaries, including parents who already have child care responsibilities and those living with a disability, being hounded into looking for jobs that just do not exist.

“As the actuarial valuation that Bennett announced shows, the highest amount of social security is being spent, where it should be, on supporting sole parents who are doing the important work of looking after our society’s children, and to those receiving the invalids benefit who are unable to work because of health or disability.

“What the actuarial cost hides is that the vast majority of people receiving benefits move off welfare and into work when the job market and their personal health or childcare situations allow.

“If Bennett and co were really interested in decreasing the countries ‘actuarial cost’ then the Government should be investing in decent job creation and looking at removing the barriers to work for those with children or who are differently abled instead of utilising pressure and intimidation to push beneficiaries into work that does not exist.

“Similar approaches in the USA saw welfare rolls decrease but in turn poverty and hardship rose as did the number of people living on street corners in cardboard boxes – and this is where Bennett’s penny-pinching might well lead us.

“Focusing on the actuarial cost is just another measure to frighten tax payers and voters into accepting the much harsher policies we’ve seen recently and the even more extreme which we expect to be announced next week.

ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release 11 September 2012, 3.00pm

Bennett mounts further attacks on vulnerable families

Bully Bennett mounts further attacks on vulnerable families with today’s announcement of enforced social obligations, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

“Beneficiaries should have the right to decide for their families whether childcare and all the WellChild/Tamariki Ora checks are right for their children, the same right that is afforded all other non beneficiary families.

“Parents need to be educated on the benefits and draw backs of such programmes so they can make informed decisions for themselves, rather than be forced through intimidation and benefit cuts to enroll their child in childcare or WellChild/Tamariki Ora checks, as proposed by Bennett.

“In addition, as Bennett herself notes, there are geographical and capacity barriers to accessing such programs with not all towns providing child care or WellChild/Tamariki Ora services.

“Beneficiaries should not have their benefits cut for either choosing to not take part in these programmes or for having difficulty in accessing them.

“These sanctions will only further impoverish struggling New Zealanders who are doing the best they can to get by within difficult and uncertain economic times.

“This is yet another attempt by Bennett to regulate the lives of the poor and step into the job description of the Ministry of Health.

ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release 5 September 2012, 2.50pm

More pointless and punitive policies from Bennett

Paula Bennett’s policy to sanction people who have warrants out for their arrest is pointless and punitive, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

“The fact that, as Bennett herself says, most people clear their warrant within thirty days, points to the idea that Bennett is releasing policies like this for no major outcome other than to distract the public from her departments continued failure to decrease poverty and unemployment.

“There are also major problems with this policy, firstly, many people who have a warrant out for their arrest may not even be aware of this until their benefit is cut.

“Second, these people are yet to be convicted of anything, and even if they were to be they would still receive their benefit unless they were imprisoned – which most people are not – so she will be effectively sanctioning many people who, even once tried, would continue to receive their benefit.

“Third, while this measure looks simple and sensible on the outside it is actually punitive and dangerous for the children and families of these people who will suffer the most from these sanctions.

Ms Thompson says that this behaviour of Bennett’s is starting to form a pattern with her trying to step into the role of the Ministry of Justice in this instance, and the Ministry of Health in the case of drug testing and offering long acting contraception to beneficiaries.

“Bennett should be focusing her energies on her own job of decreasing unemployment and ensuring that those who are unemployed are getting what they need, not trying to assist the Ministry of Justice in their job of locating people with warrants.

ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release Tuesday 28 August 2012 [10.30am]

Drug testing cruel and vindictive punishment

Paula Bennett’s re-annoucement of drug-testing beneficiaries is cruel and vindictive punishment, says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson.

“This policy will effect not only those suffering from long-term drug addiction but also those who, like many in NZ, enjoy a recreational smoke on the weekend.”

“We can see the purpose of drug testing in the case of work that requires people to use heavy machinery or enter the forest, but for the majority of jobs this test is just an invasion of peoples privacy.”

Ms. Thompson says that the cutting of benefits to recreational users will be a punishment not only for individuals but also their partners and children and will only see the increase in child poverty and inequality – the very things the Government is currently failing to reduce.

“Bennett and co clearly haven’t given any thought to what people will do when their benefits are cut – the options are limited to crime and prostitution (which may not be a job of choice), and this is a very real dangerous outcome.”

“We see this policy as a cruel and vindictive way for the Government to shift attention away from recent damning reports that show that inequality in this country is growing and that they are failing to deal with it.”

“What this government needs to focus on is decent job creation not harassment of real people and their families who are trying desperately to survive.”

ENDS

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AUCKLAND ACTION AGAINST POVERTY

Media release Thursday 23 August 2012 [2.30pm]

 MSD report proves National exacerbating hardship

Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Sarah Thompson says the Household Incomes report shows increasing numbers of New Zealanders are suffering under National.

“Figures show that things are getting worse for New Zealanders, and National’s punitive measures will only continue this trend”.

“Twenty-one per cent of children are now experiencing material hardship, versus fifteen per cent in 2007 when National took office,” she says, “this highlights that National’s policies are failing”.

“The Future Focus reform package has clearly done nothing for children and sole parents with the number of sole parent households living in poverty increasing from twenty two per cent in 2007 to twenty five per cent in 2011”.

“This failure would also indicate that the new and more harsh extension of a similar policy under the recent DPB reforms, will also be ineffective”.

Ms Thompson says the increased hardship of sole parents and their children is completely unacceptable, as is National’s lack of compassion and refusal to see care work as real work and thus remunerate parents accordingly.

“Sole parent families require a decent liveable benefit so they can get on with the care work they are providing and give their children the start to life that they deserve”.

ENDS