Beneficiaries need action, not a working group - advocate

A beneficiary advocate is unimpressed with the Government's first steps at overhauling the welfare system, saying it's letting our most vulnerable down.

The Welfare Expert Advisory Group was announced on Monday, in an effort to review how the system needs to change.

Those on the front line say beneficiaries need urgent action, not a working group.

"While the Government is setting up working groups, the people on the ground are going to be experiencing increasing hardship and that is disappointing," says Ricardo Menendez of Auckland Action Against Poverty. 

"These are the people that so hoped for change when they chose for a change of Government, and they're being let down by the Government's inaction on welfare."

Mr Menendez is cynical of the Government's 11-strong panel of experts - its due to report back next February but Mendendez says the Government's not bound to any recommendations.

"I'm quite concerned that the Labour government is going to use the recommendations as election promises for the next term and not deliver the changes for beneficiaries," Mr Menendez says. 

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni has ruled out dropping sanctions on sole parents this year. 

"We've already committed to making that happen. We just couldn't do it in the first budget; it has to happen this term," Ms Sepuloni says. 

But Mr Menendez says "it's a broken promise, and it is irresponsible to the 30,000 mothers and 70,000 children that are currently facing a sanction".

Ms Sepuloni says the Government is already looking at the sanctions regime and changes to abatement rates.

"In the meantime, we will continue to make progress on some more immediate changes to the welfare system - because for many of the vulnerable these changes cannot wait."

But Ms Sepuloni doesn't want to pre-empt the recommendations from the group, which was promised as part of Labour's governing confidence and supply agreement with the Greens. 


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