Report from Radio NZ on Equality Network presentation

Posted on

Screen Shot 2017-08-02 at 10.34.18 AM.pngGood coverage from Radio NZ on the presentation of the Equality Network‘s Election Statement.

It is essential that the issue of reducing inequality remains forefront with an election breathing down our necks. Any inaction on concrete and committed longterm planning to reduce inequalities will continue to have long-reaching impacts for those who live in the harshest of conditions in Aotearoa.

It is essential to keep the pressure up.

Image: Screenshot of Radio NZ page

Presentation at the launch of Equality Network Election Statement

Posted on Updated on

Debbie Leyland_UCANDebbie Leyland spoke on the step of Parliament voicing endorsement of the Election Statement launched by the Equality Network. Attached is the text of Debbie speech.

“We believe it is possible for all New Zealanders to enjoy a decent life, one where everyone thrives. But we recognise that big imbalances of income and wealth have been deeply destructive and unfair. They corrode our social fabric and limit the life chances of hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders. Combined with other inequalities – such as those of gender and ethnicity – they damage lives and deepen disadvantage.” Equality Network, Election Statement 2017

My name is Debbie Leyland. I am 53 years old and I am on a benefit. I am also the co-founder, coordinator and spokesperson for UCAN – United Community Action Network, and I am on the steering group of the Equality Network – both of which are voluntary roles.

Every week  after i pay rent power and bills I am left with $70 a week.

The sad thing is, among my friends I’m considered rich.

My $70 covers my weekly food, transport, medication and doctor’s fees. It’s really hard.

Most weeks I’m also helping out my family – putting $10 into my daughter or son’s account, or buying them a top up card or whatever they need.

My daughter has carpal tunnel syndrome which affects her hands so she can’t work. She has an 8-month old baby. Her and her partner are on a benefit, and they are left with just $102  a week after power and rent, to support two adults. and my 8 month old grandchild – $102.  for food and everything else including nappies.

A few weeks ago my daughter was over here, and I found some money under the bed. I asked her what we should buy as a treat, and we both said peaches! It was like we’d won lotto. Who can afford to buy fruit? No one that I know. I haven’t seen a full fruit bowl, in the house of anyone I know, for years.

We bought some cauliflower the other day and we were in heaven, it was like Christmas. I’d love to be able to fill my cupboards with fresh vegetables and food so when my family come I could feed them a really wholesome meal. My fridge is empty. I’ve got a can of baked beans and a can of tomatoes. I haven’t bought a block of cheese for months. It’s too expensive.

I’m on the invalid’s benefits because I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to things that happened during my childhood. I suffer from depression and anxiety. It’s very difficult but I’m at a level now where I’m well and I can maintain my life. But sometimes I can’t afford my medication, because I don’t have enough money, and then I become really unwell.

I feel like being on a benefit has impacted on my life hugely. The saddest thing for me is the reaction when I’m working out in the community. There’s a lot of people who, when you say you are a beneficiary, think you are either a bludger, or lazy, or whatever. The second part is the financial restraints – it is nearly impossible to live on that amount of money. People frame being on the benefit as a choice. I didn’t wake up and think “I’m going to go on the benefit and live in complete poverty for the rest of my life.” I didn’t ask to be here.

Every day I have to make choices. Do I go to the doctor or do I feed the kids? It’s an ongoing battle. I used to go out and about, and now I don’t.  The last time I actually went out with my friends was 2 and a half years ago. I can’t do things that people take for granted like going out as a family for dinner, or going out to entertainment. It’s really hard.

It was my granddaughter’s birthday the other day, and I just didn’t have enough money to buy her a present or even to go out to Porirua to see her.  I just had to ring her and say happy birthday. I’d like to be able to take my daughter or grandchildren for a walk through the town belt but they can’t afford the train fare from Porirua, and i can’t afford to get out there. Being on the benefit really creates distance within families.

Being on a benefit and being in a Housing Corp house creates a community of fear. If something happens in my house, nothing ever gets done. After the big earthquake, my bedroom door fell off. They haven’t come to fix that. The toilet upstairs leaks, my windows have mould all over them and I have to wash them every few days. You can’t lock the front door – it’s been like that for about a year. I had my granddaughter over here 2 weeks ago, and she kicked a ball through the window. I rang housing corp and they sent someone over to board up the window. It’s been three weeks and they still haven’t fixed it. But you don’t want to kick up too much fuss because there’s a constant worry that they might throw you out.

I hate going to WINZ. There’s nothing more humiliating than having to go to WINZ and ask a complete stranger for money. It’s horrible. When I went to WINZ to get some help with a washing machine, my appointment was at 2 o’clock, but I didn’t get to see my case manager until 3.30. People think that if you are on the benefit your time is not important and you have nothing better to do. What about the people who have to pick up their kids from school? My local WINZ in Kilburnie has moved to Newtown, so if you need assistance or a grant or medicine you have to walk to Newtown. That has affected so many people. We just don’t go now. It’s too far to walk.

I’m asking the Government to increase benefits.  By increasing the benefit and providing fairer income support it would mean that I could actually partake in society. I could spend more time with my family,  I would be able to eat a healthy diet. I could go to the doctor when I need to. I could have some dignity.

Getting special or an emergency benefit for example a food grant, as cash would make life so much easier.  It would mean I could buy veggies at the Newtown market, cheap Indian grains at places like the Spice Market, and shop around for cheap heaters that I want.  Plus, the cards that WINZ gives you are only valid for three days. So in the middle of winter when it’s pouring with rain, you have to walk in the rain to the shops and back with your shopping – all because your card can’t be used on the bus and you don’t have spare money. It’s a real struggle.

I think that that’s why the Equality Network is so important, it keeps these issues at the forefront of what is going on. That’s why I’m involved. It gives a voice to people that don’t have any. I want people to realise that beneficiaries are human beings and that decisions made in parliament affect all of us. It’s tragic to think that we’ve gone from Joseph Savage, who set up social welfare so all citizens could have a decent quality of life, to this – where we are living on crumbs, and having to feel grateful. I ask the Government to be brave and act with courage. To support people like myself to have a decent quality of life.

Thank you.

The UCAN Charter for Health

Posted on Updated on

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-8-22-26-amUCAN believes all people have a right to health.

That right is being denied to many in Aotearoa/ New Zealand, through poor access to health services, an unfair economic and education system that strongly favours the wealthy over the poor, inadequate and unhealthy housing, poor living environments that alienate vulnerable sections of the community. We have not met our Treaty obligations.

We believe as a nation we can and must do better than this.

The UCAN Charter for Health 2017

Everyone’s right to the health care they need

Free primary medical care available in every community.   One million people have an unmet need for primary medical care. The cost of care is the biggest barrier, including the cost of drugs. There is low availability of primary medical care services, particularly in deprived areas. Barriers are bigger for those with chronic conditions, especially mental illness. A primary health care approach with a focus on equity and social justice is required across the health system.

Everyone’s right to a living income

Support a living wage and income for all, including beneficiaries. The gap between the rich and the poor is rapidly growing in New Zealand and this is bad for our health. More and more New Zealanders in work don’t get paid enough to meet their needs, to eat healthy food, and live dignified and healthy lives. Just to survive, many are left with no time for leisure or opportunity to participate in society.  In addition, poverty is health damaging reality for many beneficiaries, and especially for 28% of our children who live in poverty.

Everyone’s right to a home

Support affordable, safe and healthy housing. We are failing as a nation to adequately house our children and other vulnerable groups. They are exposed to housing conditions that damage their health and are not fit to live in. You need a Warrant of Fitness for a car, but not a house.   People with severe mental illness are often living in substandard temporary housing with insecure tenure. They have been betrayed by a failed market model for housing provision.

Everyone’s right to take part in our society

Support community centres, drop in centres, with free internet connectivity and public transport. We are denying more and more groups the right to actively take part in our society. More people are working are working longer hours, leaving less time for involvement in their communities. We used to house people with severe mental illness in asylums. This role has shifted to the community, but the social contract that community support would be there, has been broken.

Everyone’s right to a safe environment

Support improved access to healthy food, water and air. Regulate and tax foods full of sugar, fat and salt. Ban advertising of unhealthy foods and alcohol. Protect our water and the air we breathe from contamination.. Exposure of children to foods that are harmful to their health, and unrestricted marketing of unhealthy products are now leading causes of later illness. Our water and the air we breathe needs to be protected from contamination, as does the physical environment from which they are generated.

Everyone’s right to education

Support accessible educational opportunities for all. Student loans, unequal and unfair outcomes for children from poor communities, reduced educational opportunities for the elderly and beneficiaries are all opportunities lost.

Questions and Answers

What does a “Right” mean?

An entitlement that humans have by the fact of being human, such as the right to life and the right to be free from torture or degrading treatment. The highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental right of every human being. Health is a reflection of a society’s commitment to equity and justice. Health and human rights should prevail over economic and political concerns.

 Can the country afford free health care?

Improved access to primary health care will reduce inappropriate use of hospitals, and help to keep health care costs down overall. Healthier people in the community also has an economic benefit.

What is Primary Health Care?

The main ideas are; that health care is focused on health needs; involves an enduring personal relationship between health workers and the community, particularly for those people with a chronic illness; is comprehensive (not just one illness) continuous (no barriers for patients needing care in both hospitals and the community) and person centred; responsibility for the health of everyone in the community at all stages of life; tackles the determinants of ill-health; and people are partners in managing their own health and that of their community.

Primary Health Care is a social justice and pro equity approach to health care described in the World Health Organisation’s Alma Ata Declaration of 1978 and updated by WHO in 2008. It encompasses primary medical care, hospital care, public health and the wider determinants of health.

Can the country afford a Living Wage?

A living wage has been shown to improve the economy of a country. People are a country’s greatest asset, and our children are our future. Addressing child poverty through supporting a living wage and income is a wise investment in the future.

Can the country afford decent housing?

Housing is not a cost to the economy- it is an asset, an essential piece of infrastructure, as important, if not more so, as a road, or a bridge, or an airport. Once built it has a monetary value, outside of its contribution towards nurturing the next generation.

Can the country afford education that achieve fair outcomes for all?

Like housing, education increases rather than decreases, the overall wealth of the community. Barriers to educational opportunities do not make sense – at any age.

Does the country have enough money for this?

Many of these features will have low cost or even improve the economy. The country has enough wealth to provide for all its citizens if that is made a priority. Currently the country’s wealth is poorly distributed and the provision of basic rights for all citizens is a low priority. The economy has a profound influence on people’s health. Economic policies that prioritise equity, health and social well‐being can improve the health of the people as well as the economy.

Does the UCAN Charter cover all the important issues?

The UCAN charter covers the issues its supporters see as most important at this time. There are a number of other important issues (the right to education, the protection of the planet from global warming) that we support, but are the subject of action led by other groups.