Louise Upston: National will help Kiwis to live better lives

Opinion 05/11/2019

By Louise Upston, National Party Spokesperson for Social Development, National MP  for Taupō.

National has launched our Social Services Discussion Document, setting out our plan for social services. When people are in need, it’s important we support them to get back on their feet and give them a hand-up. We believe there should always be a safety net for Kiwis who need it.

The current Government isn’t giving Kiwis a hand-up though.

Instead, the number of people on the dole is up by 22,000 since this Government came into office, rents are up by $50 per week and the number of hardship grants being paid out has spiralled because more and more Kiwis are doing it tough.

In our Social Services Discussion Document, there’s a mix of questions we’re asking for feedback on, and policy commitments we’ve already made. At the heart of our policy proposal is the Social Investment approach. The previous National Government designed it, and it transformed lives – using data to identify the best ways we can solve the problems faced by Kiwis. Underpinning it all is the idea that the best interventions are the earliest ones.

We know that families are the best form of welfare we have, so in helping families, we’re helping all Kiwis to live better lives.

That’s why National’s committed to investing in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. We know that not all mums and dads feel prepared for what life as a parent will bring, so we’ve proposed a range of ways we can support young parents.

Whether that’s more home visits for all families in the first six months, or a focus on intensive home visits for vulnerable young mums who are at risk, we want to ensure we’re supporting families as they navigate their first moments with a new baby.

That’s why we’ve committed to giving all new mums a guaranteed three day stay in a hospital or postnatal facility just after giving birth, and why we want to change parental leave so parents can take it at the same time, for the whole family to help each other out and bond in those early days.

By getting Kiwi kids off to the best possible start, we’re giving New Zealanders the best chance to reach their full potential.

National believes in a hand-up, not a hand-out.

We’re looking for solutions that break cycles of poverty and tackle the root causes, not just the symptoms of disadvantage. We want to measure the success of those solutions using targets. Targets work, ensuring clear, focussed goals on positive outcomes for Kiwis.

When we introduced targets for immunisation, rates went up. We introduced targets for the number of people achieving NCEA level 2, and the numbers went up. We know targets are effective.

This Government scrapped targets – but we’ll reintroduce them so that we can help more and more New Zealanders to live better lives.

Targets are about spending taxpayers’ money responsibly – and we believe in spending taxpayers’ money responsibly. We wouldn’t have social welfare at all without the hard work of New Zealanders every single day, paying their taxes.

National believes work is the best route out of poverty, through the security of a regular paycheque and the chance of career development. Children do better when their parents are in work, and parents do better too.

That’s why our approach to social welfare is compassionate and firm, but fair.

National is committed to having the right mix of obligations and sanctions, so that those who can work, do work, with all the opportunities that brings. We want to reduce the number of children in benefit-dependent households.

We want to hear your feedback on how we can best support New Zealanders, ensure taxpayers’ money is spent responsibly and give all New Zealanders the opportunity to live better lives. Please have your say at www.national.org.nz/social_services.

Louise Upston is National Party Spokesperson for Social Development and MP  for Taupō.