'We don't get enough': Hardships grants and benefits skyrocket

The number of hardships grants, helping people pay for everyday items like food and housing, issued by the Government has skyrocketed. Meanwhile, the number of people on benefits has increased by 15,000 since the Government took office - but it's insisting that's down to population growth.

At the WINZ office in Manurewa, beneficiaries started queuing before dawn to receive emergency grants. 

"We don't get enough," says Auckland Action Against Poverty spokesperson Kathleen Paraha. "One lady's paying $600 rent. She only gets $649, then she gets criticised because she's coming in every week for a food grant."

The latest snapshot of benefits shows why more people are queuing for help, with one-off grants to meet the cost of living almost doubling since the Government took office.

The grants have Increased from 270,000 to 490,000, with the majority of them for food.

"Hardship grants are through the roof. That's because of the taxes and the costs that the Government is piling on," says Opposition leader Simon Bridges.

But Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni says the problem isn't new.

"That demand was there before we came into office but we are making sure we live up to expectations of those who need support from the system, and that they get it if they are eligible for it."

In the same timeframe, the number of people on a benefit has increased by 15,000 - though the numbers remain in line with population growth.

 "They're sending a message that there are no consequences, you don't need to have responsibility. So while Kiwis are working hard and paying more taxes the Government is ramping up benefits," says Bridges.

But Sepuloni says the Government is working to get people off benefits.

"We need them to be in meaningful and sustainable work so that there isn't that churn back onto benefit," says Sepuloni. 

So National on the one hand are saying increased grants are a sign of the Government failing to address the costs of living, but the Government's hitting back, saying this is a sign of them helping out those struggling the most.