Jacinda Ardern blasted as 'disconnected', 'reeking of privilege' by Auckland anti-poverty group

An Auckland anti-poverty group has blasted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as "disconnected" with the realities of hardship, claiming she is "choosing to keep people and families in poverty".

Auckland Action Against Poverty's (AAAP) coordinator Brooke Stanley Pao says Ardern's refusal to raise benefits before Christmas and her justification for not doing so are not good enough.

On Monday Ardern confirmed she would not be raising benefits before Christmas, saying poverty is not an issue that can be solved in a week, month, or Parliamentary term.

She also cited the permanent $25 boost to benefits introduced in April in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying this was a "substantial increase".

"Referring to $25 as a 'substantial increase' in benefit levels is so problematic and disconnected with the realities of people who are living day to day in this country, and to be frank it reeks of privilege," says Pao.

"This Labour government has consistently campaigned and talked about being 'transformational' in their approach to social issues like welfare reform and we are yet to see any of these slogans backed up by real and lasting action."

Pao also challenged the Prime Minister and other politicians to try and live on the current benefit for a month and "see how they find themselves".

"They have no idea what it's like having to live day-to-day, and it really shows, as they truly believe they're doing enough at the moment which simply isn't the case." 

In her press conference on Monday Ardern said while she was extremely proud of the work the Government has done towards poverty it's "fair to say" there's more that needs to be done.

"But we're not going to fix these issues overnight."

Labour has said it will tackle hardship by increasing the amount people earn while on the benefit by raising the abatement threshold and reinstating the Training Incentive Allowance which provides extra assistance to single parents, disabled people and their carers towards the cost of study. 

However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought fresh criticism to the Government's approach to benefits - namely the Income Relief Payments designed to help those who were made redundant due to COVID-19 creating "two tiers of unemployed people".

Eligible full-time employees no longer working received $490 and part-time workers received $250 under the new scheme.

AAAP criticised this for separating those who deserve liveable incomes and those who don't. It said the Income Relief Payments acknowledged that benefits are "too low to live on".

"A single adult on a Jobseeker benefit would receive $250, compared to $490 for those on the [full-time] Income Relief Payment. All unemployed people deserve liveable incomes."

Newshub has contacted Ardern for comment.