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September 18, 2017 | by  | in News Splash |
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Not Enough to Begin With

Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) have launched Not Enough Left, a campaign prioritising the voices of beneficiaries and calling for a system “where all people have enough income to live with dignity.”

AAAP is an advocacy and education group focused on “mobilising against the neoliberal agenda on jobs, welfare, and poverty.”

Not Enough Left presents “a set of demands, not just for the election, but beyond that,” according to spokesperson Vanessa Cole. This involves prioritising the voices of beneficiaries: “not only their experiences with Work and Income (WINZ), but also what their visions and nightmares are for changing the system.”

The demands released by AAAP include providing liveable incomes, building a culture based on respect and redistribution at WINZ, prioritising the building and availability of state housing, and taxing wealth.  

In addition to these demands, AAAP collaborated with Accompany Collective to produce a short film presenting beneficiaries’ voices on issues surrounding New Zealand’s current welfare system.

Those featured in the film expressed concerns about the inadequacies of benefit payments to cover basic necessities.

“I’m forced to pick between being able to eat or being able to seek the help I need to better myself,” one beneficiary said.

Another said that on the benefit she received she had to forfeit proper meals to ensure her son could eat a proper dinner.

In addition to inadequate payments, beneficiaries found WINZ staff and systems “ruthless” and unfair.

One beneficiary described it as “a toxic environment” where there was no respect for privacy. Another non-binary beneficiary described “a feeling of humiliation” after being consistently misgendered by their caseworker, despite clearly stating they preferred “they/them” pronouns.

“When you walk into a WINZ office you see a sign which says, What matters the most? The people, the people, the people. Well, that’s a fucking lie.”

Anne Tolley, Minister for Social Development (MSD), disagreed with AAAP’s statements, and told Salient, “Work and Income support New Zealanders into sustainable employment so they can lead independent successful lives.”

She said that there has been success with the welfare plan under the National Government, with “increased benefits for the first time in 43 years.”

MSD is the third biggest prosecutor in New Zealand, spending $49.5 million on welfare crime investigation in 2016. Detected welfare fraud amounted to $24 million in the same time period, while the Inland Revenue Department costs tax avoidance at a minimum of $1.2 billion annually.

AAAP have criticised this, calling for a redistribution of the resources spent penalising beneficiaries.

“The reason there’s not enough left is because there’s not enough to begin with.”

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