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Source: Green Party

Vulnerable New Zealanders owing $1.5 billion in debt to the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) shows just how low benefits are, and how we desperately need to put the heart back into our social support system so people aren’t spiraling into further poverty and owing the state money.

“Our system is fundamentally cruel and harsh. People are surviving from day to day and then having to take out a loan from MSD just to go to the dentist”, Green Party Co-leader Marama Davidson said today.

“I know what it’s like to have to pay MSD debt, I once had to rent a cold and drafty old house using two thirds of my income and couldn’t afford the power bill. When my power was cut off MSD paid it and I was in debt to them. The support I was receiving should have been enough to cover the basics, like rent, bills and food.

“We need to review the criteria for debt write-offs. At the moment that criteria is too harsh and people living in desperation are trying to cover the basics whilst paying off a debt. This is cruel and unnecessary and just entrenching poverty.

“We also need to be reviewing the categories for grants, so that vulnerable people can go to the dentist without having to pay the state back for it. The Green Party believe that should be covered and this is why we are working towards a social support system that leads with compassion and supports people enough so they live with dignity.

“This is exactly why the Green Party as part of our Confidence and Supply agreement are overhauling the welfare system. Benefit levels must increase so people aren’t getting into further debt or turning to loan sharks.

“Current benefit rates are not enough for people to save money for unexpected expenses, and we know that going into debt compounds existing hardship. It is vital that we put our heart back into our social support system and fix these issues properly”.