The number of children reliant on a benefit is at its highest point since Labour became government in 2017.
The number - 211,617 - even surpasses the total at the end of 2020 after the chaos of Covid. The number is 26% higher than in March 2018, the end of Labour’s first full quarter. Over 43,000 more children are now dependent on welfare. Was that the price former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was willing to pay in her naive pursuit of poverty reduction? It was a massive risk to keep increasing benefit rates and tax credits for children. This is the result.
The majority of children on welfare are attached to single parents. Those with Māori ethnicity[i] make up the largest and fastest growing group of sole parents on welfare. This is not a win for the country or Māori.
The degree of dependency is worsening:
Long-term dependency on welfare translates into more child abuse and neglect, truancy, youth and eventually adult crime.
And there is another huge concern.
11.2 percent of the working age population is now reliant on a main benefit – up from 11 percent a year ago.
Over 7,000 more people can't support themselves through work. Yet the most recent unemployment rate available is low, at 3.4 percent in March this year. The continuing story still seems to be one of employers crying out for staff.
But a fair chunk of the increase is sickness related with 3,000 more people on the Supported Living Payment (which used to be called the Invalid's benefit) and 3,000 more on the Job Seeker/Health Condition or Disability (formerly the Sickness benefit). The largest and most rapidly growing incapacity is psychological or psychiatric.
Mental health - or more accurately, mental ill-health - is an epidemic.
73,167 people were benefit-dependent due to psychiatric or psychological conditions in June 2023 - up 28 percent from 57,297 in June 2018.
When Labour said they would put $2 billion more into mental health we didn't think they meant benefits.
Anyone with personal experience, first-hand or through friends or family members, knows there is next to no help available beyond anti-depressants. It's a dire situation.
This quarterly data is the last we will see before the election in October.
Make your own mind up. But by no stretch of the imagination can Labour claim to have made a positive difference to dependence on welfare during their two terms in government.
[i] During Labour’s term the way ethnicity is recorded by the Ministry of Social Development was changed from the ‘priority’ to ‘total’ method. A beneficiary with more than one ethnicity will be counted in each group meaning that total claimants sum to more than 100 percent.
Lindsay Mitchell blogs here