Wellington, December 8, 2017
Through a series of extraordinary statements in Parliament yesterday, the Minister of Social Development dismissed the idea of setting targets to reduce poverty and welfare dependence – the exact sort of targets that are key to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s ambitions to reduce child poverty.
Carmel Sepuloni comments that she would not be setting targets around poverty reduction and welfare dependence are completely at odds with the Prime Minister’s plan to set them into legislation.
This is another complete U-turn from the coalition Government. While these sorts of ideological differences might be expected between Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens, it beggars belief to have a Labour Minister outright reject her own Prime Minister’s ideas.
As acknowledged by the Children’s Commissioner just this week, the growth of the rate of child poverty has halted, and the number on sole parents on benefits is the lowest since 1989.
We know this because the National Government set targets, and we measured our achievements against those targets.
We know that there is a direct connection between children growing up in benefit dependent homes and experiencing hardship.
The new Government needs to front up and clarify whether it will set targets to further reduce benefit numbers.
The National Government had a real focus on the things that we knew would make a difference to the quality of people’s lives. We worked hard to build a robust economy that would improve incomes, we set a Better Public Services target to reduce the number of people on benefits, and we used a Social Investment approach to focus on identifying and reducing hardship.
As the Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni’s responsibility includes ‘alleviating poverty and hardship, and reducing long term benefit receipt’.
I am calling on the new Government to step up to those responsibilities and be transparent on its plans to improve the lives of children.
Louise Upston is Member of Parliament elected from Taupo and National Party’s Spokesperson for Social Development.