Fix WINZ Food Grants - Open Letter

Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, Minister for Child Poverty Reduction, Prime Minister.
Rt Hon Carmel Sepuloni, Minister for Social Development, Minister for Disability Issues.
Rt Hon Tracey Martin, Minister for Children.

Tēnā koutou Ministers,

Everybody should have enough to live with dignity. As we enter week three of the Civil Emergency lock-down, food is a continual priority for all, especially those who could not afford to stock up, and were already living week to week. As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made clear, we do not have a shortage of food in this country. However, those surviving on welfare live below the poverty line, and they lack access to that food.

In the current system, accessing a food grant is something beneficiaries and precarious workers have to do to survive, even without a lock-down crisis. Now, many food banks and food charities are inaccessible, while Work and Income is impossible to visit or to get through to on the phone.

Food grants can be applied for on the MyMSD app or webpage, but the amount is limited($200 for a single person, or $550 for a family with three kids, available once every 6 months). While we welcome the temporary boost of $400 before people have to show exceptional circumstances, the truth is that most people on the benefit rapidly go over that limit. This is inadequate, and it is common for those in need to spend hours at Work and Income offices trying to get their food entitlement in order to feed themselves and kids while they juggle life.

Food grants are provided for under section 11.2 of the Special Needs Grants Programmes. The amount and frequency of grants are limited unless the Chief Executive of Work and Income considers that there are “exceptional circumstances”. Therefore, the Chief Executive can, given the current pandemic, direct Work and Income staff to ignore the current limits and allow for automatic approval of all food grant applications.

Now more than ever, food grants must be accessible and automatically approved through the MyMSD application on the MSD website. This is the best way to ensure that all those who are low-waged, sick, disabled, elderly, solo parents, or currently unemployed can use their Green Card to buy food. While we continue to call for wider changes within the welfare system we see this as a change that can be implemented in the near future and that would make a tangible difference to thousands of families who are struggling to put food on the table.

We, the undersigned, call upon the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni and the Minister for Children Tracey Martin to implement this change to ensure everyone in New Zealand has access to food.

GOAL: 753 signatures

Will you sign?