Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - Brian Rudman: Hunger in land of milk and honey

It's a disgrace that children are hungry in Aotearoa! Everybody is entitled to a living income!
Brian Rudman: Hunger in land of milk and honey
For years, local celebrities have been popping up on our screens in their safari gear, imploring us to sponsor a poverty-stricken child. A child in some poor, badly governed, Third World country, of course. The Herald's "Our Hungry Kids" series shows the problem is much closer to home.

Perhaps the most chilling line is buried away in the daily "What you can do" box, recommending we "sponsor a hungry child through KidsCan for 50c a day". This, in the land of Fonterra. In a land where a state-school principal in one part of Auckland can demand every child come to school with a designer-brand, $1000 tablet computer. A land where the Government can throw $1.77 billion to greedy and unwise investors who lost their money to the cult of Alan Hubbard.

Child Poverty Action Group's latest report highlights the impact that 20 years of widening income disparity between rich and poor is having on the victims no one can blame, the children.

It also proposes that for a relatively small price - $8 million to $18.9 million - all primary and intermediate school kids in decile 1 to 3 schools could be provided with a nutritious breakfast, something which will be beneficial both healthwise and educationally.

"If a few children go hungry in the morning then that suggests a temporary or perhaps ongoing problem within individual families. If hundreds go hungry morning after morning then the problem is structural and can be addressed.

"Yet despite the ubiquity of food insecurity among students at Auckland's decile 1 and 2 schools, children's hunger is often portrayed as one of individual moral failure and stigmatised accordingly." As a result, some parents keep hungry children from school to avoid being stigmatised.

Yet blaming caregivers "fails to address the causes of hunger and denies children the assistance they need".

The causes of increased poverty, and the growth of foodbanks and school food programmes, go back to National's big benefit cuts of 1991.

About 221,000 children, those whose parents are on income-tested social security, are affected.


Defend Our Benefits! Forum Sunday 31 July, Henderson, 1.30 pm



Why are beneficiaries going to be forced to work when there are not enough decent jobs?

Waitemata Branch of Unite! Union is holding a community forum in Henderson this Sunday to provide the answer to this question. It will be held at at the WEA, 9 Henderson Valley Rd, starting at 1.30pm.
It's a Forum to highlight the many proposed changes to the benefit system as well as overall cuts in living standards at a time of 5% inflation that are already hitting ordinary people at the moment.

Workers in West Auckland are particularly vulnerable many families living below the poverty line.

"Thousands have already been taken off the invalids benefits losing $50 a week. The Rebstock Razor gang wants to reduce spending by nearly a third from around $4.7 billion to $3.4 billion per year by 2011 (dishonestly represented as $47b and $34b which is the amount for the entire ten years.) It aims to cut 100,000 people off the welfare rolls in the next decade above those who will get jobs with the projected economic 'recovery'. Overall, it hopes to reduce those on a benefit from 360,000 to 100,000 by 2021. It also plans to increase the proportion of beneficiaries having to seek work from 37% to 77%, with a possible work-for-the-dole."

If the government goes ahead with these proposed changes then all beneficiaries will be put onto one 'Jobseeker Allowance' and pressured to find work. Some proposed changes are:

· Solo parents on the DPB will be expected to find part-time work when the youngest child reaches the age of 3 years. [Even the draconian 'reforms' in the UK set it at 5 years!]

· Sickness and invalid beneficiaries will be frequently reviewed to see if they can work.

· Beneficiaries with mental health problems or addictions will be forced into treatment or risk losing their benefit.

Waitemata Unite says that these are attacks on workers rights and living standards at a time of recession which is already doing terrible damage to suffering and fragile families, where the object is to pressure them to compete for work at low wages.

The Government is trying to get public support for these changes by blaming beneficiaries for their plight, calling them part of an 'underclass' that is dependent on social welfare. This is especially cynical when this Government is spending billions on bailing out banks and finance companies and yet cannot fund a welfare system that allows children to be fed before going to school.

Waitemata Unite! calls on all beneficiaries who want to defend their rights, and learn more about how Unite! Union works to support them, to come to the Forum and share their stories of the problems they face and how we can unite together as a community union to resist these changes.

See attached notice of Meeting
Also blog: on which there are lots or stories and reports of what is happening to welfare in Aotearoa.
Also see facebook page of Waitemata Unite

For further information contact Hon Sec 836 9104 or mobile 027 2800080

Children's Hunger

Hunger for learning. Nutritional Barrier's to children's education. Report by the Child Poverty Action Group:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Forum: Defend our Benefits, Wages and Services !

FED UP and OUTRAGED at the Governments attacks on wages, benefits and social services?

Furious at the 90 Day Fire at will Act and the threatened destruction of the welfare system?

Fed up with price & GST hikes, cuts to health education and welfare services?

Fed up with harassment by WINZ staff acting on government instructions to reduce our entitlements?

Fed up with your contribution to society as a mother carer or worker not being valued ? Fed up with ill health, no support? and no jobs?

Outraged at being made to pay for the bosses' own economic crisis?

WHERE: WEA 9 Henderson Valley Rd
WHEN: 1:30 p.m Sunday July 31st

Come along to these forums to share your experiences with others. Air your frustration and forge the bonds of solidarity that will defeat the National/Act/Maori Party coalition’s anti-working class agenda. Discuss which parliamentary parties are worth supporting in the coming general election.

Plan non-parliamentary actions, such as protests and pickets, strikes and co-operative food , housing, health, education and childcare.

Refreshments provided
Further forums planned for August 14th & 28th, Sept 11th & 25th

Hosted by Waitemata Branch of Unite! Union
836 9104 027 2800080

"Let Them Eat Weetbix" says Paula Bennett.

At a public meeting on Health, at her office in Henderson last night, Minister of Social Development Paula Bennett said that no child needs to go hungry as all the parent needs to do is give them Weetbix with hot water.

She is saying that hunger is the beneficiaries' fault!
No matter , to Bennett, that the entire week's benefit has gone immediately to pay (a) rent-which may be higher than the benefit in the first place; (b) debts or car expenses

Unite Waitemata members brave the cold to protest
health and benefit cuts and privatisation. Monday 25 July 2011

(c ) emergency medical costs such as out of hours A@E costs for children; parking costs at a hospital, doctor's fees for anyone over five; (d) the school demands some more money for 'donations" or a school trip;
or (e) the water could even be cut under the Auckland City Council's new rules. So not even water with the weetbix! And the world cost of wheat, as with rice, grains, vegetables and all basic foods is rising astronomically due to floods, droughts and climate change.

So then- where does the money for the "Weetbix and water" diet that Bennett prescribes come from? And even if there was a few dollars to buy a packet of weetbix-how is that going to provide adequate nutrition for anyone?

Bennett does not even dare to mention Weetbix with milk, given the astronomic cost of milk. Where's the calcium? Where's the protein?

What does Bennett expect people to do in order to afford their Weetbix? Live on the street or under bridges? Beg, steal, or prostitute themselves? Send their kids out to work all night at MacDonalds or Burger King?

And if people decide to make sacrifices to pay the rent- they may go hungry, or suffer from overcrowding, or damp mouldy houses. Then Bennett blames us for not feeding our children Weetbix every morning .
Or for living in "clusters". Overcrowding, hunger, stress and poor housing is a recipe for domestic abuse and disease. But the the National and Labout governments take no responsibility for their part in drastically cutting benefits in 1991 and continuously eroding them ever since , with the worst yet to come!
The government's policy towards low income people and beneficiaries is economic violence. Cuts kill.
Children with poor nutrition not only can't learn at school, but suffer a life time of poor health and die young. So do women or children who have suffered domestic abuse.

The Child Poverty Action Group is calling on the Government to fund food programmes for hungry children in schools, now that the Red Cross Programme has collapsed due to supermarkets pulling out of the programme. This just goes to show, says the CPAG, that we can't rely on charity. Too right we can't. It's time for the government to step up to its responsibility and to stop blaming parents who can't make ends meet on sub- poverty incomes. Shame on you National! and Shame on Labour before! Neither have lifted a finger to help beneficiaries and their children out of poverty in over 20 years! Shame upon these governments for letting things get so bad that the Red Cross had to step in!!!

A single parent with three disabled children who relies on the DPB and works part time as a teacher aide said that she has to take her children to the hospital each week and each time pays exorbitant hospital parking fees. She pointed out that many people would not get the health care that their children needed faced with these costs. Doctors fees are also prohibitive for all but the under fives; and even they have to pay at after hour A@E centres.
Citizen's watch dog Penny Bright asked where was the accountability for the private health providers who had contracts with the Department of Health; and suggested that if enormous amounts of money was not siphoned off to some of the middle men that free parking would be quite affordable. She said it was totally unacceptable for people to have to pay for parking for health care.
There was also a lively debate on the pros and cons of raising the drinking age, with young people arguing forcefully against it and a representative from CADS begging for some intervention to prevent people drinking too much. One person suggested gradually raising the smoking age, and some National Party supporters even thanked Hone Harawira for the legislative changes about smoking that he brought about.
The single parent of the three disabled children also asked: What about alternative medicine? Why do the Regional Health Advisors refuse to acknowledge that this is valid, as had been her experience? Paula Bennett did not accept that they were doing this. Here we have a beneficiary's actual experience being contradicted by a Minister's assertions.

Poverty , hunger and ill health is the Government's Shame- Not Ours!

Living Benefits and Living Wages Now!
Free Nutritious Food in Schools Now !

Friday, July 15, 2011

Picket Benefit Bashing UK Minister Friday 22 July


Media Release Wednesday 13 July 2011


Auckland Action Against Poverty will picket UK Conservative minister Iain Duncan Smith when he speaks at a dinner hosted by the Maxim Institute next week.

The picket will take place on Friday 22 July from 5.30pm onwards, outside the Heritage Hotel, 35 Hobson St, Auckland.

Iain Duncan Smith is the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and will be presenting Maxim’s 2011 Annual Sir John Graham Lecture ‘Renewing compassion: a vision for welfare that frees rather than traps the poor.’

AAAP spokesperson Sue Bradford says, ‘Iain Duncan Smith has presided over horrendously damaging reforms to the UK welfare system, including the removal of hundreds of thousands of people from invalids’ benefits and increased privatisation of services .’

‘Work and Pensions contractors in the UK have even been issued with guidelines on how to deal with suicide threats from beneficiaries as the impacts of the reforms take hold.’

‘Our own Government’s Welfare Working Group report released in February has taken many of its recommendations directly from reforms made by Mr Smith and the UK’s Conservative Government.’

‘We are holding the picket next Friday because we want to stand in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of people in the UK who are being adversely affected by welfare reforms there, and because we strongly oppose similar recommendations in the Rebstock report.

‘We suspect that Maxim has brought Mr Smith to New Zealand so that he can provide moral support to the welfare reform changes National has promised to offer as part of its core election strategy.

Auckland Action Against Poverty is committed to doing everything we can to oppose the Rebstock recommendations, and to expose the National welfare agenda.

AAAP was set up in late 2010 to bring together unemployed people, beneficiaries, students, unionists, church people and others working for a fairer society which puts the wellbeing of low income people above the welfare of bankers and investors. Recent actions include a ‘race to the bottom’ after the 2011 budget, and an occupation of Paula Bennett’s office following the release of the Rebstock report.

Contact: Sue Bradford Ph 027 243 4239 or (09) 837 0416;

Spokesperson: Auckland Action Against Poverty

Meet Janet Grossman, UK Welfare slasher, New Head of WINZ

Us born Janet Grossman, newly appointed head of WINZ was previously employed to slash 60 billion pounds off welfare expenditure in the UK, as the chief operating officer of the Department of Work and Pensions. It looks like she's been head hunted to do the same job here. Her main tactic was to decimate Job Centre staff levels; replacing human interaction with technology such as the use of call centres and the internet. Despite large numbers of applicants for benefits having enormous problems getting through on the phone (often giving up), or being able to afford the expensive phone calls or to understand the complex forms ; Janet Grossman's methods have been considered a success because they have saved the department large sums of money. Those with disabilities and carers were among the worst served and the most neglected.Here's a quote from a British parliamentary committee of 2006 before which Ms Grossman appeared:
"...let us congratulate Ms Grossman, shall we - if we read her CV we see that: "Under Janet's leadership, the Pension Service operations have improved efficiency and customer service, reducing staff numbers by 26% whilst improving service levels in the last 18 months". She has done a fantastic job and I pay tribute to her. When we need to summon you back in a couple of years' time, which I will obviously do, will you be able to tell us that Ms Grossman has been promoted and received a pay rise but those responsible for a lagging performance elsewhere have been sacked and moved on?"​​select/cmpubacc/uc1034-i/u​c103402.htm The transcript is hilarious, especially the cross questioning by one Austin Mitchell, Labour MP for Grimsby (of Quarter-acre-Pavlova Paradise fame) who asks are the customers told midway thru their phone call how much it is costing them? That was 2006, so its likely she has turned 100s of jobcentres into callcentres to get people to chase jobs over the phone or online (services contracted to the private sector).
For more on Janet Grossman's passion for cutting public services see: