Media release: Government must address the cycle of disadvantage

Media release
28 November, 2017

Wellington (28 November 2017): New Zealand’s welfare state must get much better at helping people to realise their potential to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives.

That is the key message in the report Welfare, Work and Wellbeing: From Benefits to Better Lives released today by The New Zealand Initiative.

“More money can help, but it is not enough,” said Dr Bryce Wilkinson, author of the report and Senior Fellow at The New Zealand Initiative. “Our report highlights a cycle of disadvantage passed from one generation to another. Problems abound of abuse, neglect, addiction, youth justice interactions, lack of skills and wasted potential.”

“Seriously disadvantaged young people lack basic work skills and many don’t even understand what paid work entails. This is more a failure of upbringing and schooling than lack of money.”

“Governments must do a better job of finding out what programmes really work to break the cycle and help people overcome their predicaments.”

Dr Sue Bradford’s foreword challenges the report’s view that the outgoing National-led government’s social investment approach had this focus. In her view, its aims were penny-pinching and its means punitive.

“It is common ground that the prime focus of welfare policy should be to help people improve their lives,” said Dr Oliver Harwich, Executive Director of The New Zealand Initiative.

“We agree that merely punitive measures won’t achieve that, they will end up being self-defeating both fiscally and for wellbeing. The fiscal measure is valuable because it requires an independent assessment of the sustainability of moves from benefits to work."

“Sustained improvements in well-being should be win-win for beneficiaries and taxpayers alike. Wellbeing measures should be improved and the fiscal measure retained. We welcome a debate focused constructively on how to get a better welfare system – for those who need it and from the perspective of those who fund it.”

“Our report urges a continuing longer-term focus on helping those who can work to find work. It stresses the need for other policies to be working in the same direction – housing, education, labour market and economic growth. It is easy for those who already own houses or have jobs to support policies that make it harder for those who have neither. We particularly see the need for much greater success in moving the most disadvantaged young people from school into paid work,” concluded Dr Wilkinson.

Read more:
You can download Welfare, Work and Wellbeing: From Benefits to Better Lives on our website.

Dr Wilkinson’s report will be formally launched tonight at 5.30 pm. He will be joined by Dr Sue Bradford to discuss the report’s recommendations and answer questions from attendees.
Location:The New Zealand Initiative, Level 12, 36 Brandon Street, Bayleys Building, Wellington

You can register for this event here


Dr Bryce Wilkinson is available for interviews, please contact:

Linda Heerink, Communications Officer
The New Zealand Initiative
Phone: +64 4 494 9109
Mobile: +64 21 172 8036

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