What’s poverty?

The Child Poverty Action Group opens it challenge against Working for Families before the Human Rights Review Tribunal today.

The group claims that the in-work credit of $60 a week breaches the Human Rights Act and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by discriminating against people because of their employment status.The credit is given to single parents who work at least 20 hours a week, and two-parent families who work at least 30 hours between them, provided neither parent receives any income-tested benefit.

There would be no case to answer if people had tax cuts rather than a benefit which is what WWF is. However, while tax cuts would be better than a benefit for those on medium to high incomes, they would not give a similar level of help as WWF does to low income working families.

And that still leaves the problem of beneficiaries. But how do we help those in genuine need without propping up those who can help themselves, what’s poverty and how much is enough?

Keeping Stock  says that after a trip to Ethiopia his perception of poverty has changed. That reminded me of a comment by an Oamaru vicar who had been asked if it was alright to steal food if you were hungry. He responded that he found it difficult to accept there was real hunger in New Zealand because he came from South Africa where hundreds of people shared one cold water tap whereas here people drove to the food bank.

That is not to say that children are not in desperate need here, and when you are on a low income it is very difficult not to go backwards because no matter how carefully you budget there will often be too much week left after the end of your money.

But sadly that happens to people who by any reasonable measure are earning more than enough to be above the poverty line too. We see numerous examples of this on the dairy farm where people are earning at least $35,000 a year and have a house supplied which must be worth at least another $10,000, but still run out of money before payday.

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