The Green Party is under scrutiny for failing to make significant policy changes to the country's welfare system despite campaign promises, but co-leader Marama Davidson says more Green MPs need to be voted into Parliament to see sweeping welfare reform.
It comes after a Ministry of Social Development report revealed around 573,000 hardship allowances were given out in the September quarter, at the cost of $167 million.
Speaking on TVNZ 1's Breakfast today Ms Davidson said the party's "mending the safety net" policy during the 2017 general election, which aimed for an increase in all core benefits by 20 per cent, has not been done but “remains an absolute priority”.
“People lining up outside Work and Income offices makes it clear – people simply don’t have enough, and that needs to change,” Ms Davidson said.
“Rather than hardship grants, people should have enough income in the first instance to live their lives with dignity.”
Ms Davidson said the Government needs to put in place all of the welfare expert advisory group’s recommendations.
“They gave us a blueprint to overhaul the system so that it’s one that allows people to seek support when they need it,” she said.
“We are very clear that we need to see a timeframe for the entire plan and all of the recommendations to be put in place – we haven’t yet seen that.”
While Ms Davidson would not say whether the Greens were being stymied by their coalition partners, noting that it was “a question for the coalition partners", she said the Greens were "very clear" that the Government needs to "treat people with compassion”.
“We have, for far too long, kept benefits at an inadequately low level. They need to be increased, and there are a whole range of other levers that governments can pull that need to happen as well.”
She also addressed criticism that the Greens are not living up to their campaign promise to overhaul the welfare system, saying that more Green MPs must be voted into Parliament to enact change.
“The phrase of ‘overhauling the welfare system’ is absolutely part of our agreement with Labour. What that looks like has been up for debate.
“I’m very clear that if people want to see us overhauling the safety net, in particular, increasing the core benefits, we’ll need to see more Green MPs come into Parliament, come into governmental power.
“Right now, we’ll keep working and pushing for [change to the welfare system], but it’s not happening right now.”
National's social services spokesperson Louise Upston fronted Breakfast today to talk about the welfare system, but Labour's Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni declined the invitation.