Community Scoop

A Broken Welfare System

photo of Trevor McGlincheyTrevor McGlinchey

Executive Officer | New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services

New Zealand’s once proud social security system is broken.  You can help fix it, add your voice to the call for change. Go to  and have your say (before 9th November).

The Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) has been touring the country talking with people from all walks of life about the kind of welfare system they would like to see for all New Zealanders.  I have been privileged to be part of this group.

We heard of the incredible struggles faced by those on the benefit system to survive in the face of a punitive system that seems to keep people in poverty, with little hope for change.  Of taxation and benefit abatement systems that makes taking up work opportunities incredibly difficult. We met with people working part-time who after having their benefits and Accommodation Supplement abated feel they are working for no extra income.

We met with extremely well organised, and tightly budgeted single parents, who after carefully accounting for every cent spent each week find themselves thrown off course by an unexpected medical necessity and spiralling into debt.  They told us about their children who are unable to attend school camps, buy lunches (even when the rest of their class does on special occasions) or participate in sports.

People with health conditions and disabilities, and their carers who saw little hope for their futures.  They were trapped in an endless cycle of never having enough income to fully meet their everyday lives, let alone address their health needs.

There are the many Work and Income staff who took up jobs in this organisation in order to support people and make a difference in their lives. Instead they find themselves sanctioning people and driving them further into hardship as this is the requirement of the current system. We met with clients of Work and Income who feel real fear at the prospect of going to Work and Income offices as they do not trust the system.

It was obvious the current system is broken and is not achieving wellbeing for those who rely on it and is creating great stress for those working in it.

The WEAG has been tasked with creating a system which achieves the government’s vision for welfare that ensures people have an adequate income and standard of living, are treated with and can live in dignity and are able to participate meaningfully in their communities.  A welfare system that enables people to be earning, learning, caring or volunteering and ensures a dignified life for those for whom these options are not possible.

Your feedback and suggestions are critical to getting a welfare system we can once again be proud of.  You have until November 9, 2018 to add your voice to the call for change and provide your suggestions on what New Zealand’s welfare system should look like. Go to  and have your say.

Ngā mihi hōhonu ki a koutou katoa

This blog has been contributed by a member of the ComVoices network. The views presented here are not necessarily those of ComVoices.

ComVoices is a Wellington based network of national community and voluntary sector organisations. It was established so that sector organisations would have a more powerful voice at Government level and in the community.

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