An example of how it will be better to remain on the benefit under Labour

The Herald looks at parties’ social policies and gives an example:

Solo mother Mia Silverman works 20 hours a week in a professional job – but she is virtually no better off than she would be on a benefit.

A media production assistant at Auckland University, volunteer yoga instructor and established singer-songwriter, Ms Silverman is multi-talented.

Mia Silverman with Monty, 4, and Frankie,2. Photo / Dean Purcell

But when she tried working fulltime when her second son Frankie was still under 2, soon after her marriage broke up, it was too much.

“After working two weeks fulltime, I did a breakdown of my budget,” she says.

“What is better – being really, really stressed and working is great, but the stress of running around was too much.”

She received $680-$690 a week on a benefit. Current rates are $299.45 for a sole-parent benefit, $157.17 in family tax credits for two children, and Ms Silverman got about $205 a week in accommodation supplement for rent.

Now her 20-hour university job pays $430 a week after tax, her tax credits and accommodation supplement are reduced, but she also gets the $60-a-week in-work tax credit, taking her total net income to about $850 a week after tax.

Out of that she pays a net $100 a week for Frankie’s childcare after allowing for a government subsidy, a $16 top-up for her older son Monty’s kindergarten because he needs to be there slightly more than the 20 free hours a week, plus $35 for parking at university and $100 a week for petrol.

“I enjoy being back at work, but I’m not really that much better off.”

Ms Silverman is right. The gap between being on  and work is sometimes not great. It would be good to have policies that mean there is a greater gap.

But see that $60 a week in-work tax credit. Labour and Greens want to give that to people not working. What will that mean? It means the already small gap between the income on welfare and work may disappear entirely for people like Ms Silverman.

I think it is vital the in-work tax credit remains for low income people in work, and is not extended to people not in work. It may mean people will earn less if they move into work, and hence they won’t.

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