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Wednesday 08 October 2008

Proclamations of the Red Queen

28th March 2008

Mainline NZ Churches: Benefit Rises Needed

Posted by: Craig Young

It isn’t often that I’ve had cause to write a supportive blog about the activities of religious organisations, but I really must applaud the actions of the New Zealand Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist and Salvation Army church leaders who have reaffirmed their commitment to fighting poverty, homelessness and economic inequality through calling for benefit rises.

Through their Council of Christian Social Services work, the aforementioned mainline denominations have become aware of considerable hardship resultant from the Richardson/Shipley benefit cuts of 1991. Given recent price rises, even low-income working families have experienced problems with rent, food, motor vehicle fuel and utility costs over the last two years. While the government has said benefit payments will increase by three percent to deal with inflation, rent increases have surpassed this, growing by a seven percent average.

And while I don’t mean to dismiss the sufferings of those families at all, especially as there are probably some takatapui, fa’afafine and whakawahine-led families amongst them, single men may be tipped into homelessness by the above grim scenario, especially if they have experienced mental illness and/or alcohol and drug addiction.

Furthermore, we know from Anglo-American LGBT social service reports that LGBT homelessness may also include perceived exclusion from social services due to sexual orientation or gender identity, especially in the case of LGBT youth. If that’s true overseas, then where the hell is applied social policy research here on our homelessness problems?

One only hopes that the above finally makes National and especially its ‘welfare’ spokesperson, Judith (Banksia) Collins, think about the human consequences if they intend to cut invalids and sickness benefits as many social service agencies suspect in the event of  a centre-right election victory. I would invite Key and Collins to unconditionally rule out such a radically dangerous strategy, based on the harm and hardship that the mainline churches and other social service agencies in New Zealand deal with, every day.

Update: Today’s New Zealand Herald editorial (31/03) carried an appalling attack on the above mainline churches statement, which accused them of playing partisan politics, and pontificated offensively about “marriage, parenting and family formation” as “solutions” to poverty.

What utterly simplistic, doctrinaire nonsense. Does it not stand to reason that slashing central government social services while also slashing benefits in the nineties probably contributed substantially to a ‘lost generation’ of children who grew up in entrenched poverty and helplessness, and thus descended into antisocial behaviour due to the cumulative consequences of housing inadequacy or homelessness, untreated family alcohol and drug problems, family violence issues, and the solace offered by youth or fully-fledged gangs?  And that providing such government services now, along with heeding the call for benefit increases to combat social exclusion and poverty, is the best way to deal with the root causes of violent crime.

For a moment, I wondered if I wasn’t reading a party political broadcast on behalf of the National Party…

Strongly Recommended:

Simon Collins: “Churches Issue Call for Action on Benefits” New Zealand Herald 28.03.08.

Leanne Smith, Bonnie Robinson and Lucy Aitken-Reed: Forgotten People: Men on Their Own: Manukau: Salvation Army Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit: 2006: [No references to gay homelessness, but excellent resource on single male homelessness generally].

Tags: Politics · Religion

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Gavin Knight // Apr 1, 2008 at 12:09 am


    good post, but as you’ll see from posts today and yesterday on my blog the NZ Herald has misrepresented NZCCSS in terms of restoring the 1991 benefit cuts

    but I am sure this wouldn’t change the tenor of your post as their call is quite clearly for the public and political parties to be more cogniscant of the impact of public policy on the poor


  • 2 Craig Young // Apr 1, 2008 at 10:26 am

    Thanks, Gavin, and I’ll certainly have a look at your blog later today.

    I wish the general LGBT community was as concerned about economic inequality, poverty and social exclusion as the NZCCSS are. I am sure that it impacts on HIV/AIDS and related issues of concern to us.

    Craig Y

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