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Budget 2011: Budget needed to help close the gap

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The community sector is deeply concerned that today's budget announcements have failed to address the widening inequality gap in New Zealand, which will have long term fiscal and social impacts. ComVoices members, a group of umbrella community organisations, were hoping to see a much greater emphasis on policies that focused on closing the gap between the wealthiest in New Zealand and the numerous families living in poverty.

The Government had signalled a willingness to invest in the community in the lead up to the budget with an announcement that it would spend $55.2 million more on work and training subsidies for young people. ComVoices members have applauded the decision to increase funding for disability support services by $130 million, and an extra $55 million for mothers and babies.

However, overall the Government has failed to fully recognise the impact that inequality is having on our communities and the long term drag that inequality is having on the social, health, housing and justice sectors.

Tina Reid from the NZ Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations said: "We were looking for policies that help to address the marginalisation of low income New Zealanders. While youth training and trade academy initiatives are positive, that is not enough to address the myriad problems faced by families struggling to make ends meet."

"This budget was a missed opportunity for the Government to prove that it really understands the issues. It should know that to tackle this critical issue of inequality would have meant much greater investment in our families and communities." Jonathan Tautari from CCS Disability Action said: "Little has been done to try to close the gap between those at the bottom of the ladder and the rest of New Zealand. By doing nothing to support the most vulnerable, the Government has effectively made the future for all New Zealanders a little bleaker."

Tim Burns from Volunteering New Zealand said: "This budget's sporadic approach to funding raises serious concerns that some of the Government's investments will fall short of achieving their intended results - that's because at the same time, funding has been cut for the back-up and support." Jo Lake from ACE Aotearoa said: "The Prime Minister has made a commitment to 'breaking the welfare cycle'. What we were hoping to see in this budget was more upfront investment in education and training policies that address the skill gaps, including for adults and families/whanau.

"Boosting literacy and numeracy support for both young and adult New Zealanders would have ensured that everyone in our communities could benefit from the economic growth the Prime Minister is predicting."

ComVoices members have also expressed disappointment at the Government's decision to cut CPI-linked funding. While many community sector organisations do not depend on Government for funding, the ones that do will see a real reduction in the services they are able to provide to the community.

Already, support for early childhood care is being cut and District Health Boards are 'reprioritising' their funding Robin Gunston, Chair of ComVoices said: "The regulatory environment for all community sector funding models, including government funding, needs to be addressed. Until that happens, decisions that result in cuts to services only put greater pressure on families in need."

Community organisations have already reported that they are struggling with increased demand for services following the Christchurch earthquake and the economic downturn.

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