National’s ‘regressive’ benefits plan won’t work – Support Services

Support Services say National’s new social policy is outdated and will make things worse for recipients.

National needs to listen to young people, Aaron Hendry said.
Photo: RNZ/ Eva Corlett

The party’s social policy was announced by Christopher Luxon at the National Party’s annual conference yesterday, and includes cutting payments for 18 to 24 year olds on Jobseeker’s Allowance if they do not make enough work effort to get a job.

Youth homelessness collective Manaaki Rangatahi believed the policy would fail the young people it is meant to help.

Aaron Hendry, a youth worker who also works for Manaaki Rangatahi, said that while National’s only goal is to put young people to work, it misses the point.

“One of the challenges with these policies is that historically they don’t address the real reasons why our young people need benefits.

“So, you know, for our context, we support rangatahi who are experiencing homelessness that comes from really complex histories of generational poverty, [they have] mental health issues, addictions, disabilities.

It is vital that the needs of the rangatahi are heard and are at the center of the services they receive, Hendry added.

“The idea, the assumption that our young people are lazy and they float on profits, well that’s just not true.

“I have never met a young person who does not have hopes, dreams, aspirations for their future. I have met many young people who are disempowered, who have grown up in cycles of poverty and abuse and who face enormous complexities in their lives.”

Christopher Luxon

Christopher Luxon.
Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Brooke Stanley Pao, of Auckland Action Against Poverty, said National’s social policy showed politicians are not listening to their communities.

Forcing young people to work was archaic and proven not to work, she said.

“I think young people are actually tired of the way we do things… They don’t feel tied to capitalism or coerced into work that doesn’t make sense to them or the kinds of work that we consider important.

“Young people are already doing so much in this space and if we just supported them with sufficient income, they could do so much more with their own potential.”

The beneficiaries’ lawyer, Tavia Moore, said the policies would only make the situation worse.

Moore, of the Beneficiary Advisory Service, said the party needed to talk more with those who directly help beneficiaries.

“[Our clients] struggle to decide what to cover – whether they cover their rent, their food. Taking more away from them will only make this situation worse.

“The idea that people languish on the advantage and it’s an easy place to live is not what we see for our customers.”

She was also concerned about the regressive nature of the policy and said National had oversimplified the issues people face.

It also didn’t seem to take individual circumstances into account, Moore added.

Labor and the Green Party have also been highly critical of National’s policy.

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