July 01, 2020
Higher repayments heighten poverty trap for Maori
Auckland Action Against Poverty has found Māori and women are being made to repay debt to Work and Income at a rate almost a third higher than other groups.
The roopu is calling for all debt to the Ministry of Social Development to be cancelled.
Spokesperson Brooke Fiafia says figures obtained through the Official Information Act show that up to December a total of 225,000 people were paying off special needs grants, up from 170,000 five years ago.
The average outstanding debt had doubled from $690 to $1368.
She says low benefit levels and higher rents mean more people have borrowed to cover rent arrears, power bills and other expenses.
Debt offsets on their regular benefit payments mean they then have even less to cover basic expenses and require further special needs grants.
Cancelling debt would give low-income families a reprieve and enable them to get back on their feet.
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