Advocacy group calls on Government to adopt seven-point plan to help Kiwis struggling with cost of living crisis

An advocacy group is calling on the Government to adopt a seven-point plan of action to help Kiwis struggling with the cost of living crisis. 

Finance Minister Grant Robertson will reveal the 2022 Budget on May 19. It comes after the latest Stats NZ figures showed an inflation rate of 6.9 percent in the March quarter - the largest year-on-year increase in nearly 32 years. 

While the Government has introduced several measures to help struggling Kiwis including slashing the fuel taxes and halving public transport prices, the Fairer Future group is calling on them to do more. 

The plan of action, titled 'Seven Steps for a Fairer Future', is endorsed by 33 organisations.

It reflects the advocacy group's key priorities for the Government to create lasting change for people most in need. 

"While the Government has taken some steps to lift incomes and improve the welfare system, significant change is still needed," Save the Children advocacy director and group spokesperson Jacqui Southey said.

"The extreme hardships caused by the jump in living costs show that it's time for sustained and concrete action that supports those in our community doing it the toughest."

Southey said the seven-step plan of action will have a positive impact on families and children locked in poverty.

"'Seven Steps for a Fairer Future' calls on the Government to increase core benefit levels to the standard of liveable incomes, with recent Fairer Future research describing what liveable incomes are in 2022," Southey said. 

The seven steps in the plan of action by the Fairer Future group are: 

  1. Increase core benefit levels to the standard of liveable incomes
  2. Raise the minimum wage to the living wage
  3. Increase the Disability Allowance
  4. Overhaul relationship rules
  5. Remove sanctions
  6. Wipe debt owed to the Ministry of Social Development
  7. Improve supplementary assistance and urgent grants

Fairer Future said its knows what it takes to lift people out of poverty and reduce the hardship and misery people face in New Zealand's welfare system. 

"The reality is that the level of income in any household directly influences the standard of living that household can achieve," said Brooke Stanley Pao, coordinator at Auckland Action Against Poverty, and another spokesperson for the Fairer Future collaboration. 

"Now it's time for the Government to do the right thing and level up the assistance for people on income support, given the surging cost of living and the struggles people have gone through during the pandemic."

Fairer Future said the seven policy changes should be underpinned by a commitment to the Treaty of Waitangi and an acknowledgment improved welfare will support a just transition to a low carbon economy.

Fairer Future's research released in March showed the lifts in income support announced in last year's Budget will still leave some families around $300 short of what is needed every week to meet core costs to participate in society.

"This is a test of the kindness and wellbeing agenda," added Southey.

"Budget 2022 provides an opportunity to transform the welfare system and guarantee everyone in New Zealand can access a liveable income."

Finance Minister Grant Robertson.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson. Photo credit: Getty Images

Robertson told AM on Tuesday the 2022 Budget will focus on delivering key public services to help low to middle-income Kiwis.

"The Budget that we are going to put forward will deliver to New Zealanders the services that they need," Robertson said. 

"They need strong health services, they need good schools, they want to see good transport networks... All of those things are important. We've also got to be planning for the future so we are not so reliant on the things where we are seeing inflation - be that the use of oil or making sure we have better prices at the supermarkets."

Robertson said the Budget will strike a balance between targeted support and investment for health and education. 

"A core focus of this budget will be resetting our health system, making sure that New Zealanders actually get good quality healthcare wherever they live, whoever they are. 

"Making sure that we've got a focus on those long term issues that will help New Zealand's economy grow, getting on top of climate change and making sure we do the basics right. We are very well aware of the pressure on households."