Methodist Alliance calls for increased benefits and abatement rates

Published on 1st of December, 2020

The Methodist Alliance acknowledges Labour’s social welfare policy to address the current abatement rate but strongly urges them and other political parties to properly address the inadequacy of benefits, and income threshold at which benefits are cut so that beneficiaries can get back to work and lift themselves out of poverty.

The Methodist Alliance comprises Lifewise, in Auckland, Wesley Community Action, in Wellington, the Christchurch Methodist Mission, Methodist Mission in Dunedin, as well as 20 other regional organisations. It constitutes a major provider of services for children, young people and their families, and vulnerable adults. It’s joining other national social service and advocacy organisations in this call.

In addition to increasing benefits and raising the benefit abatement threshold to the equivalent of 15 hours per week at the minimum wage, the Methodist Alliance also calls for the recommendations of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group report Whakamana Tāngata: Restoring Dignity to Social Security in New Zealand to be put in place.
Methodist Alliance National Convenor, Jill Hawkey, says that in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown, the Government gives greater financial support to people made redundant by the lockdown than that paid to beneficiaries, which is a tacit acknowledgement that benefits cannot provide the most basic standard of living for ordinary New Zealanders.

The abatement threshold must also be raised. This is the amount of money a beneficiary can earn before the benefit is cut. It was set up in 1986 based on 15 hours work per week at the minimum wage, which at the time, represented $80 per week. In April, the Government increased the abatement threshold to $90 per week, which equates to just under 4.8 hours per week at the minimum wage.

This threshold provides a disincentive to work. A beneficiary who accepts part-time work and earns more than the $90 a week limit may see only a few extra dollars a week in their pocket, once abatement rates have reduced their benefit. Social housing costs may increase. They may incur work-related costs and have the uncertainty of changing benefit levels each week.

“The economic situation is widely expected to worsen in coming months, and this will reduce the ability of agencies and communities to support those most in need. Every dollar spent addressing benefit levels and the abatement threshold will immediately contribute to economic activity and post-Covid recovery efforts across Aotearoa New Zealand.

“Methodist Alliance members see the desperate and unsustainable situation that our poorest people face in their daily lives. In particular, the fact that they often bear the brunt of economic downturns in a way that most New Zealanders do not. Recipients of benefits need opportunities to contribute to the recovery and to participate in their communities. This approach will have an immediate stimulatory effect in their local communities across the whole country and particularly in those areas with the greatest needs,” Ms Hawkey said.