by NZ CATHOLIC staff
WELLINGTON — As the 2011 General Election nears, members of the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services say they seek a fairer society — especially in several particular areas.
Inequalities: In a statement, the church leaders said that responsibility is shared and reciprocal between those with resources and those with few; between those who make decisions and those with less influence.
“Responsibilities arise out of a sense that we are members of a single human family. Those in need are not burdens to be borne grudgingly, but brothers and sisters to be welcomed and accompanied.”
The Salvation Army suggested thinking about “our collective ambitions for the economy”.
“Are we are achieving a fair distribution between the various groups and interests in our society? Rather than leaving it to the market to decide, why isn’t it a conscious choice through democratic processes like voting?”
Caritas said that it seeks some of the qualities seen during the Rugby World Cup: equality, teamwork, participation and inclusion.
Welfare reform: It’s been coming this way for a while now, said the leaders. “Future focus policies require people to reapply for unemployment benefits after one year, and increased work testing for domestic purpose benefit and sickness benefit recipients. It will continue to be on the agenda, whoever becomes the Government.”
Caritas has put out a guide to the welfare debate, the Salvation Army ask if New Zealand can afford its welfare system, and Christchurch’s Methodist Mission has produced a welfare fact sheet.
Laura Black from the Methodist Mission said that the “welfare system isn’t broken, and it is working as intended”. She argued that “Government should be focusing on the other half of the equation: job creation instead”.
Children: Submissions on the Green Paper for Vulnerable Children are due on February 28, said NZCCSS. Children are at the centre of election debates this year, and NZCCSS said it is pleased they are.
“Our children don’t vote and depend on the rest of us for our wellbeing. A big issue is do we focus on the relatively few children that are described as the ‘most vulnerable’, or do we focus on policies that seek to look after every child well with the aim that no child ends up among the ‘most vulnerable’?”
Resources in this area are said to include Anglican Social Justice information on family violence; Presbyterian resources on child and family election issues, and an Otago University Centre for public theology document entitled Working for Families.
The Salvation Army asks New Zealanders to consider the realities that children and young people face, rather than the perceptions and sexy political and media headlines.

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