Budget 2021: Poverty advocacy group says Budget doesn't go far enough despite major boost to benefits

The Budget delivered a major boost to benefits but Auckland Action Against Poverty says it's not nearly enough. 

From July this year, all benefit rates will increase by $20 a week, with a second increase in April next year bringing main benefits in line with recommendations from the 2019 Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG). 

Families with children will also receive a further $15 per adult per week, while student allowance and student loan for living costs jump by $25 per week.

That means weekly benefit rates will increase by between $32 and $55 per adult by April 2022.

For example, in 2019 the WEAG recommended the sole parent support benefit be lifted to $374. The Government's actually going further, taking it to $434. 

The Jobseeker Support payment for a single person aged over 25 will increase to $315 per week, the WEAG recommended amount. 

AAAP co-ordinator Brooke Pao Stanley told The AM Show on Friday the Government should have gone further.

"It's not nearly enough to actually support people into what we believe is their best lives.

"One of our most important resources in this country is our people and I think people who are receiving benefits in this country continue to feel like, 'Well is that what the government thinks people are worth'."

Pao Stanley said the Government has presented it as a "radical" investment, but it was actually "buildups". 

"They're saying this is reversing the Mother of all Budgets and this is a radical investment but I think radical would have been livable incomes, radial would have been individualised benefits, radical would have been removing obligations and sanctions from the welfare system. I think this was an opportunity for them to do more and they didn't. 

On Thursday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Budget was about reversing cuts to benefits made in 1991 under National Party Finance Minister Ruth Richardson - a Budget nicknamed the Mother of all Budgets.

"Thirty years," Ardern said. "That's how long it has taken to get benefits back to the rates they were before the Mother of all Budgets."

When asked by host Duncan Garner whether she looked ungrateful given how much the boost is, Pao Stanley said she doesn't care how she looks. 

She said her job is to ensure her community and kaupapa have "access to the rights of their own existence". 

Alongside the base benefit increases, the Government is also funnelling more money into childcare and training. 

From April next year, the Government is indexing Child Assistance income thresholds to increases in the average wage, a move it expects will benefit 1000 families or around 1500 children.

This will be funded through a $13.3 million investment over four years from the Budget 2021 operation allowance.

The Training Incentive Allowance is also being brought back. It supports sole parents, carers and disabled people on eligible benefits with the costs of studying, such as with fees, books and transport.