The overall direction of welfare reform has been to reduce financial and other support and to raise expectations and penalties, making an increasingly complex system. The important work of parenting children is undervalued. Reform has occurred in a context of reduced employment protection and a lack of commitment to full employment by government .
Nevertheless, many promising initiatives are starting in areas such as employment support, improving the experience of those using the welfare system, and the amounts of some payments have increased. We also note that the welfare system does work well for many people, and consultation revealed that New Zealanders value the system, but it needs to improve.
New Zealand needs an approach to welfare that expresses New Zealanders’ values and upholds the social contract between citizens who fund welfare through taxation and citizens who require assistance – an approach that makes all citizens proud.
That social contract needs to strike a fair balance between the support the state provides and the expectations on people receiving support. The system today is imbalanced, with the weight of expectations overshadowing the support provided.
We want people in marginal financial and social positions to regain their dignity and have every opportunity to thrive.