Visionwest Response to Budget 2021.
On May 20th, the Government released its 2021 Budget which included a number of initiatives to help vulnerable whānau as we seek to recover from the effects of COVID and its financial ramifications which have impacted so many New Zealanders.
Lisa Woolley, CEO of Visionwest Waka Whakakitenga responded to Budget 2021 by saying, “We applaud the Government for recognising many of the needs currently felt by the most vulnerable whānau in communities across Aotearoa. The presence of COVID means we live in a time when many who have never before experienced financial and wellbeing challenges are now grappling with them daily, adding to the need for community response from organisations like Visionwest.
“Within the community services provided by Visionwest, we have noted a significant increase in need, particularly in the areas of housing, food insecurity, child poverty, employment, counselling and financial mentoring. It’s in these areas that we welcome any steps the Government would take that will work towards increased wellbeing, hope and transformation for whānau throughout New Zealand.”
Of the many initiatives revealed in the Budget, Visionwest are especially interested in those that line up with the community services we currently provide –these initiatives include:
- Tackling inequality and child poverty will see weekly benefit rates lifted by between $32 and $55 per adult. As a result of this benefit increase, up to 33,000 children are projected to be lifted out of poverty.
- An investment in the wellbeing of Whānau Māori. This will include, $380 million into Māori housing across Aotearoa, $242.8 million for Māori health initiatives, and $150 million in Māori Education. The money set aside for housing will include the delivery of 1,000 additional new houses and repairs for 700 Māori-owned houses improving the quality of homes for whānau in greatest need.
- $57.3 billion infrastructure investment over five years, including $11.6 billion for housing.
- $127 million will be invested over four years towards the operating costs of reinstating the Training Incentive Allowance. This will allow an additional 16,000 people –including approximately 5,750 Māori and 1,400 Pasifika people –to retrain, gain higher skills and transition into new careers.
- The implementation of a range of initiatives to help communities prevent family violence and sexual violence from occurring in the first place and help those using violence to stop. This will include expanding whānau-centred facilitation by Kaupapa Māori providers.
- The need for post-COVID support for workers has led to the design of a Social Unemployment Insurance scheme that would support workers to retain about 80 percent of their income for a period after they lose their jobs.
Tackling child poverty and financial insecurity
We know that many low-income New Zealanders struggle to meet the cost of basic material needs. For some time, Visionwest has advocated for some tangible help for those who are facing financial hardship, as we recognise the effect low incomes and poverty have on whānau, especially children. The projection of up to 33,000 children being lifted out of poverty will be a huge relief to many whānau.
Māori wellbeing and housing
Visionwest witnesses, on a daily basis, the over representation of Māori in our support services. With regard to housing, Māori experience homelessness or severe housing deprivation at a rate four to five times that of European New Zealanders, according to recent research from the University of Otago. We commend and endorse the Government’s focus on Māori health and wellbeing, especially in the area of the provision of warm, dry housing.
Fred Astle, Visionwest Pou Whakarae (Head of Māori Development), is encouraged. “The ring-fencing of $350 million investment for infrastructure for Maori housing through the $3.8 billion Housing Acceleration Fund is one step in the right direction towards lifting Māori from poverty and helping the 11,100 Whānau Māori currently on the housing register. Any investment in social housing strategies creates the potential for transformational outcomes for all whānau, especially those who are the most vulnerable.”
Housing Visionwest welcomes any investment made into affordable housing –we see having a warm, safe and dry place to live as being a basic human right. A reality for Aotearoa today is that around 1% of New Zealanders are homeless. That makes our homelessness rate the highest among the 35 high-income countries in the OECD (The Borgen Project –September 2020). In collaboration with other housing initiatives, including the Housing First collective, Visionwest remains committed to ending homelessness in New Zealand and welcomes this investment.
Education and employment
The Government’s reinstatement of the Training Incentive Allowance will provide a pathway to employment for many who face poverty through lack of a job. Through our Education and Training Centre programmes, Visionwest has witnessed the deep desire of many people, especially the young, to find employment. In the last financial year, of those registered in our youth training programmes, 66 went into full-time employment and many others went to pursue additional education. With this investment, we hope the coming years will see this number grow.
We are grateful for the Government’s foresight in investing $131.9 million over four years, towards preventing family violence and applaud the focus on expanding whānau-centred facilitation by Kaupapa Māori providers. The simple reality for Visionwest is that our Mātanga Oranga Whānau Trauma specialist is unable to keep up with the demand of whānau who wish to engage with Kaupapa Māori-based service supports in order to address trauma (at times generational trauma) they have experienced. This willbring hope and transformation to many by enabling a growing number of whānau to address issues that impact their personal and whānau lives.
Post-COVID worker support
At Visionwest, we have noticed an increase of need across all community services as people who may have never before faced financial hardship are now struggling to make ends meet due to decreased income or job loss caused by COVID. This has especially impacted our Pātaka Kai, and our Counselling and Budgeting Services. Any financial relief that can be provided will make a very real difference to these people and their whānau.
Visionwest recognises and appreciates the Government’s commitment to the post-Covid recovery of Aotearoa and the support given whānau and to organisations like ours. Lisa Woolley concludes, “In these post-COVID times, we are continuing to reach out to the vulnerable in our communities, including those who are new to the experience of financial insecurity and the many challenges that brings. For this reason, we are grateful for any initiatives that bring some relief to the whānau we, and organisations like Visionwest, are supporting.”