Project supports low-income families trapped by barriers

NZ Herald 11 July 2014
A novel project aimed at giving 100 low-income families a public voice has found that almost all of them want to work – but face barriers that need to be overcome.

The year-long project has found many poor families feel “trapped” in unemployment by the cost of study, lack of transport, poor health, past criminal records, the time demands of dealing with multiple agencies, and by low-paid casualised work which is less secure than a benefit.

But they also have ideas on how to overcome these barriers, such as restoring training allowances for sole parents, free health care and subsidised dental care for low-income families, publicising the right for ex-criminals to “wipe the slate clean” for minor offences after seven crime-free years, more personalised social services, higher minimum wages and tougher monitoring of casual work contracts.

“Our families tell us that income levels, including the minimum wage and base benefit levels, must be reviewed to ensure that the most basic human needs of food, shelter, healthcare and education may be met without the need for them to take on crippling and unsustainable debt,” a report on the project says.

The project has been carried out by Auckland City Mission staff and academics with 100 families who have been long-term users of some of the 70 foodbanks which the mission supplies from Kaitaia to Thames.