Auckland Action Against Poverty release election demands

Welfare advocacy group Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) has released demands in the lead up to the election on behalf of beneficiaries they assist.

In a short documentary video released at a launch on Sunday, voices and stories of those on the frontlines of poverty describe their experiences grappling with employment, welfare, housing, and Work and Income.

Beneficiaries called for end of the "toxic culture" at Work and Income, and want to raise welfare benefits by hundreds of dollars a week.

In the video, some describe Work and Income's attitude to them as "toxic" and "humiliating".

One mother says she was eating toast for dinner so her son could have proper food.

Over the past two months, AAAP has been talking with beneficiaries about their vision for a welfare system established on the grounds of equality, not punishment.

"Overwhelmingly, the responses from beneficiaries we have spoken to are that benefit rates are too low to live on with dignity," group co-ordinator Vanessa Cole says.

She says they amassed their demands based on stories and ideas gathered from beneficiaries.

"[These include] liveable incomes for all, building a culture at Work and Income based on respect and redistribution, a mass build of state housing with secure tenures, and a tax on wealth."

Welfare was not simply a safety net for unforeseen hardship, Ms Cole says.

"The purpose of welfare is to ensure beneficiaries and their families can live in dignity, participate in society, and have an opportunity to access meaningful, dignified work where their labour is valued."

The unemployed are not the cause of unemployment, she adds.

"Benefit rates and the toxic Work and Income culture punishes and degrades people, forcing people into low-paid work, and keeping them in a poverty trap."

Ms Cole says paying a liveable income to both unemployed and employed workers will remove the coercive incentive to work to survive.

"With high levels of homelessness, and a policy environment set on destroying state housing, it is essential that the Government builds massive amounts of state housing with secure tenure."

A Ministry of Social Development spokesman said they were taking the feedback seriously.

"Many people who come into a Work and Income office are finding it hard to make ends meet, and we know working through these issues is not easy."

He said it was important to note all benefit rates and other state-funded financial support are set by Parliament.

AAAP, a non-profit organisation, offers direct action and education, and a free advocacy service, including support for those seeking assistance from Work and Income.