Alana Jones is not your typical foodbank client.
Her husband has a good income, she was employed until the birth of her 5-month-old baby and she is not eligible for a benefit.
But with up to eight mouths to feed, constant rent increases and only about $200 for bills and food each week, she needs help.
This is the second time in two weeks Jones has visited the Christchurch City Mission for a food parcel.
Between Jones and her partner they have six children. They live in a “cold, damp” three-bedroom rental in Avondale. Two children have asthma and one has a heart defect.
She is $25 over the threshold to be eligible for a Housing New Zealand property, and her husband earns “just” too much for them to qualify for a benefit.
After rent, bills and petrol are paid from her partner’s $700 weekly income and their $420 Working for Families supplement, Jones estimated they had $200 to spend on food “if we’ve got it”.
Making ends meet was now getting “harder and harder”.
“We look back at what we used get and you can’t get that any more.
“We’ve lost internet, phone, TVs – so you can imagine it’s like camping. We can’t afford the bills.”
As well as having six children, Jones has five cats she rescued after the earthquakes and “can’t part with”.
She said she had “no money to free up anything” for her children. They could not afford school shoes, so they bought $5 pairs of canvas shoes each week to compensate.
It was her daughter’s birthday last week, but there were no presents.
“They don’t understand [our situation].”
To earn extra money on the side, Jones’s partner has been buying things off Trade Me, doing them up and reselling them, and they have been selling eggs from their chickens.
But they are still in the red.
I have huge sympathy for Mrs Jones. Raising six kids on what is now a single income must be incredibly difficult. The kids looks delightful and well cared for, and the sacrifices they are making to make ends meet is commendable.
According to the WFF calculator they should be getting $494 WFF a week, but that is based on assuming all six kids are young. Without the ages of each kid, hard to know.
But regardless of how much WFF is, the reality is that caring for six children on a single salary of $700 a week is, I am sure, incredibly hard.
The question I have is why they decided to have a sixth child, when presumably their finances were already stretched to the maximum. I don’t want to sound critical of what seem to be a great hard working family. It may be that the pregnancy was unplanned. But I think there is a general principle that the vast majority of families decide to limit the number of children they have to the lower of how many they want and how many they can afford.
I think we should have a welfare system that helps families with one or two kids, as I think you want every couple that wants children to have them. But whether we should be using limited taxpayer money to fund families than have four, five, six, seven kids etc – there I am less convinced. We do of course provide WFF for additional kids, but that is not a substitute for a couple deciding if their own incomes can support further children.