$20 benefit increase: Is it enough?

By Marena Mane

All adults on main benefits for unemployment or disability will receive an extra $20 dollars from today.

It's the first of two increases that will lift benefit rates by between $32 and $55 by April 2022.

Māngere Budgeting Services Trust CEO, Darryl Evans, says although the increases are good it's not enough and more can be done.

The trust works with around 1,500 whānau every year.

“The $20 means—just on basic food—two litres of milk, a loaf of bread, rolled oats to give your kids porridge, two cans of beans, two cans of spaghetti, and one kg of sausage.

“Electricity is going up … rents continue to rise, everything is going up. So, again, kudos to the minister, but it has to be more.”

Evans received the ASB Good as Gold Award last year for his service to the South Auckland community advocating on behalf of low-income whānau. He is also part of the steering group for financial capability services with the Ministry of Social Development.

“$31 doesn't cut the mustard.”

There is no increase to the weekly winter energy payment of $31.92 and Evans says whānau are instead using the money to buy food.

“So that tells us there is a problem. If you're living in poor quality accommodation, many of those houses are cold. Often they're not insulated and a cold damp house is extremely hard to heat. So $31 definitely doesn't cut the mustard anymore.”

“We have to keep fighting,” says Evans. “Keep working with the government and encourage them that, you know, for people to have a decent lifestyle they need to have more money in their pockets.”