Election 2020

Election 2020; income support and welfare policies6 min read

12/10/20 5 min read

Election 2020; income support and welfare policies6 min read

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Our National Policy Analyst, Phoebe Eden-Mann, has taken a look at the income support/welfare policies currently available from the main parties. Here is her take from a disability perspective.

With significant unemployment and uncertainty thanks to Covid19, income support and welfare has been talked about more than ever. But for the disability community, income support and welfare has long been a very pressing issue.

Having enough money to survive and thrive is crucial to ensuring a good quality life, and yet, our welfare system is insufficient, particularly for disabled people and their whānau. Disabled people are more likely to experience poverty, especially Māori and Pacific disabled people. Disabled people under 65 are almost 2.5 times more likely to report not having enough income than non-disabled people under 65. The parents of children with disability are 1.5 times more likely to report insufficient income.

Disability often come hand in hand with additional costs, whether it be for transport, medication, treatments, or accessibility aids. None of these things are cheap, and there are barriers for many disabled people and their whānau to engage in paid work; yet income supports for disabled people are so small that people who do not have additional disability related costs would struggle to survive on them.

So, with the election rapidly approaching, let’s have a look at what the income support and welfare policies the parties currently in Parliament are proposing.

It’s important to note that at the time of writing (12th of October 2020), the policies I’m about to talk about were the only ones available, and parties may release policies over the coming days. All policy information I am talking about has been sourced directly from the party’s websites. I have looked at the policies of the current parties in parliament. These parties are Labour, National, New Zealand First, ACT, and the Greens.

The parties have been selected in no particular order.

The National Party

The National Party is proposing:

  • To empower parents with a $3000 funding entitlements to allocate on services that best meets their needs during their child’s first 1000 days.
  • To support new businesses with cash support and access to up to $20,000 from KiwiSaver to launch new businesses.
  • To extend money management to all beneficiaries under 20 years-old, and up to 25 years-old for those who fail to meet their obligations.
  • To reinstate the Social Investment Approach and invest in areas that have the biggest positive impart on long term social outcomes.
  • To give parents the choice about when they take paid parental leave, either one parent at a time (as they can now), or both at the same time if that is what they prefer.
  • To ensure greater choice and control over the support disabled people receive by expanding the Enabling Good Lives model.
  • To introduce Under 25 Job Coaches at Work and Income offices who will work with young adults who end up on Jobseeker support. They will develop personalised and intensive ‘Path to Work’ plans that support their journey back into employment.
  • To provide couples on superannuation an extra $1,000 and singles an extra $560 from their economic stimulus package.
  • To maintain superannuation payments at no less than 66 per cent of the average ordinary wage for couples and the universality of the superannuation scheme. They will also maintain the Winter Energy Payment and Super Gold Card.
  • To establish a Seniors Commissioner.

The New Zealand First Party

The New Zealand First Party is proposing:

  • To investigate the establishment of ‘Kiwi Saver at Birth’ to encourage birth registration and long-term saving habits.
  • To introduce a Children and Families package by repurposing current spending and streamlining the system.
  • To introduce the ability of families to capitalise on their first child’s family benefit payments for the purchase of their first home.
  • To shift all seniors out of Work and Income offices to new ‘Senior Hubs’ in recognition that Superannuation is an entitlement, not a benefit.
  • To re-establish Workbridge as the leading agency for Kiwi’s with a disability to provide greater support for both the employer and employee.
  • To develop a Seniors Housing plan to address the increasing number of Seniors in rental accommodation and requiring Accommodation Supplement support.
  • To resource and support better initiatives for those seeking employment through Work and Income  so they all receive a Personalised Employment and Education plan, as well as support to achieve the goals of the plan.

The Labour Party

The Labour Party is proposing:

  • To reinstate the Training Incentive Allowance for degree level study to provide additional support to sole parents, disabled people and their carers towards the cost of their study.
  • To increase the amount people can earn while on the benefit by raising the abatement level. People will be able to earn at least $160 per week before their benefit is reduced. This rate will be increased year on year in line with minimum wage.
  • To replace the Minimum Wage Exemption with a wage supplement to ensure disabled people are paid at least the minimum wage. This will be a $34 million investment over four years.
  • To introduce an Accessibility for New Zealander’s Act to help New Zealand to become more welcoming and accessible for disabled people and people with accessibility needs.
  • To boost the number of new state houses that are accessible by requiring that at least 25% meet universal design standards.
  • To address period poverty by providing free access to period products in schools.
  • To examine inequities between support through ACC and the welfare and health system for disabled people and people with health conditions.

The Green Party

The Green Party is proposing:

  • To introduce needs-based funding for disabled children and to increase individual funding to meet demand.
  • To support individualised funding for all disabled people and their whānau if they wish.
  • To review the Child Disability Allowance with a view to increasing the levels as they recognise that there are significant additional costs that are associated with raising and supporting a disabled child or young person.
  • To improve inter-agency cooperation, streamline services, and reduce the complexity of funding and the need for constant advocacy for basic entitlements.
  • To reset incomes support payments to ensure that everyone not in fulltime work (including tertiary students) receives a guaranteed minimum income of $325 after tax per week. Solo parents will also receive an increase of $110 per week.
  • To bring all health and disability related income support into a single system based on ACC with payments of at least 80% of fulltime minimum wage, regards of what caused the work impairing condition, or if you were employed at the time.
  • To introduce Universal Best Start Payments of a $100 per week per child under the age of three.
  • To replace other Working for Families tax credits with a single Family Supporting Credit of $190 per week for the first child, and $120 per week for subsequent children, with an increased abatement threshold of $49,000, with an abatement rate of 20%.

The ACT Party

The ACT party is proposing:

  • To introduce an Employment Insurance Scheme, where 1% of a person’s tax goes into the scheme and is paid out if they lose their job. 
  • To introduce electronic income management for people on Jobseeker Support and for people on the Sole Parent Support if they have an additional child whilst receiving a benefit.

I am unsure if people receiving Jobseeker Support Health Condition and Disability  would be required to have electronic income management. I have reached out to the ACT Party to try and clarify but they have not replied yet. If they do, I will update this blog.

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