Alternative Welfare Working Group launched at Catholic Centre

A new Alternative Welfare Working Group was launched today at Wellington’s Catholic Centre. The group was set up by the New Zealand Catholic bishops’ social justice agency Caritas, Anglican Church representatives and the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation, with the aim of ensuring beneficiaries and community groups are part of the debate on government welfare reforms.

The group is made up of respected academics, representatives of beneficiary groups, people with disabilities, and churches and was established out of concern that the government’s official working group does not represent those most affected by changes to the welfare system.

The government’s proposed changes include reducing the number of people receiving benefits by supporting them back into work and tightening rules around eligibility for state support.

At the launch Rev Dr Anthony Dancer, Anglican Social Justice Commissioner, expressed his concern at the growing gap between rich and poor in New Zealand and emphasised the importance that any review of welfare proposes outcomes which are just and of benefit to all of society.

This was reflected by Mike O’Brien, who added that welfare reviewers must ask, “What will the changes mean for those who have the least resources and are most vulnerable?” Mamari Stephens expressed the importance of having consistent principles between the welfare and legal systems, and of Maori voices being heard.

Like the government-appointed working group, the alternative working group is writing a report which will be presented to the government in December.

Opportunities to engage in discussion and debate about the future of the welfare system will be notified on the group’s website, which went live today

The Alternative Welfare Working Group members are:

Mike O’Brien (Chair), Associate Professor of social policy and social work, Massey University
Paul Dalziel, Professor of economics, AERU, Lincoln University
Mamari Stephens, Lecturer in welfare law, Victoria University of Wellington
Sue Bradford, community and welfare activist, PhD student in public policy
Wendi Wicks, National policy researcher, Disabled Persons’ Assembly
Bishop Muru Walters, Pihopa o Te Upoko o Te Ika and Chair of the Social Justice Commission of the Anglican Church
Auckland University associate professor of economics Susan St John and Massey University associate professor of public health Cindy Kiro have also agreed to act as formal advisors to the Alternative Welfare Working Group.