Yay for Child Poverty Action Group Boo Labour
Great to see the Child Poverty Action Group win the right to mount a legal challenge to Labour's policy to exclude beneficiaries from the Working for Families package.
Such an exclusion is designed to widen the gap between beneficiaries and the working poor - the very same principle, among others, guided Ruth Richardson's infamous 'Mother of all Budgets' in 1991. It makes the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the In Work Payment (IWP) nothing more than an indirect subsidy for employers, and lets them off the hook for consistently failing to pay their employees family friendly wages. The benefit cuts of 1991 are still with us, as benefit levels have never been increased in order to restore a similar comparative level with wages that existed prior to 1991.
To make matters worse, 'beneficiaries' is defined to include those receiving a student allowance, NZ superannuation or those on ACC for more than 3 months. So a single mum attending university will not benefit from the CTC or the IWP, and neither will grandparents acting as caregivers after the death of a parent.
Sue Bradford is calling on the Government not to appeal the Human Rights Review Tribunal decision. Sadly this is not an unreasonable fear given the petty litigious attitude of the Government on similar issues in the past (such as on defining a relationship like marriage).
If Working for Families was meant to be about reducing child poverty, it really needs to be asked why children of beneficiaries ought to be worse off, purely based on the source of their caregivers income. Its not something the kids can control after all.
The case is the first under 2001 amendments to the Human Rights Act that allowed Government policies to be challenged in the Human Rights Review Tribunal. It also sets another important precedent by establishing the right of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to challenge discrimination in public policy, regardless of whether they themselves are directly affected. As an example, this decision could be of great assistance to NGOs working in mental health advocacy, as many people with past psychiatric/psychological issues regularly face systematic and unwarranted discrimination.