01.04.01. Social protection schemes | New Zealand

01.04.01. Social protection schemes | New Zealand

14 Sep 2022

Social protection schemes implemented by the government:

An excerpt from a report by the Welfare expert advisory group (Welfare Expert Advisory Group, 2019) a group established in 2018 to undertake a review of New Zealand’s social welfare system serves to summarise the origins of the system and its shortfalls.

“A social contract between the Government and its citizens was established in New Zealand legislation with the Social Security Act 1938. Government would provide financial assistance for New Zealanders unable to achieve an adequate standard of living (which remains central to the social security system), alongside other critical support such as access to health care, education, housing, and adequate employment. In return, people receiving financial support would participate in training or other activities and seek employment when appropriate. This social contract is now out of balance.

The current system is based on conditionality including sanctions and is tightly targeted, with inadequate support to meet even basic needs. The experience of using the system is unsatisfactory and damaging for too many of the highest need and poorest people. We heard overwhelmingly during our consultation that the system diminishes trust, causes anger and resentment, and contributes to toxic levels of stress. There is little evidence in support of using obligations and sanctions (as in the current system) to change behaviour, rather, there is research indicating that they compound social harm and disconnectedness” (Welfare Expert Advisory Group, 2019).

Social protection schemes implemented by the government cover a broad range of circumstances including the loss of employment or inability to work, urgent or unexpected costs, help with living expenses, raising, children or caring for someone else, and superannuation for seniors aged 65+ (Ministry of Social Development, n.d.).

The main benefits for those of working age are:

  • Jobseeker Support – for people who can usually look for or prepare for work. It also includes people who can only work part-time or cannot look for work at the moment (e.g., they have a health condition, injury, or disability).
  • Sole Parent Support – Sole Parent Support is for single parents, with at least one dependent child under 14 years, who can look for or prepare for part-time work.
  • Supported Living Payment – Supported Living Payment is for people who have, or care for someone with, a health condition, injury or disability that severely limits their ability to work on a long-term basis.
  • Other benefits include the Youth Payment and Young Parent Payment (YP/YPP), Emergency Benefit (EB), Emergency Maintenance Allowance (EMA), Jobseeker Support Student Hardship (JSSH), Widow’s Benefit Overseas (WBO), and Sole Parent Support Overseas.
  • Supplementary benefits: The Accommodation Supplement is a weekly payment to assist people on low incomes with their rent, board, or the cost of owning a home.

The Disability Allowance is a weekly payment to assist people who have on-going costs because of a disability. Temporary Additional Support is a weekly payment that helps people to cover essential living costs that cannot be met from their income and through other resources.

Hardship assistance:

Hardship assistance includes but is not limited to: Special Needs Grants (SNGs), Benefit Advances (ADVs) and Recoverable Assistance Payments (RAPs). These forms of assistance are designed to help people who have immediate needs.

Seniors (65+)

NZ Superannuation and the veterans pension:

To be eligible for NZ Superannuation you need to be: 65 years or over, a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, and living in New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Niue or Tokelau at the time you apply. You must also have lived in New Zealand (or a country New Zealand has a Social Security Agreement with) for a specific period. You don’t have to be retired from work to get NZ Superannuation as it’s not income tested.

Social protection schemes implemented by development partners or international:

The most recent statistics available from the March 2020 quarter show that 10.3% of the working age population were receiving a main benefit. Job seekers accounted for 5% of these, sole parents 2%, and supported living 3.1%, with other main benefits the remaining 0.2%. People with a health condition account for over 50% of those on a main benefit (Welfare Expert Advisory Group, 2019). There is also a trend for an increase in the number of hardship grants allocated over the same time period. Māori make up 36% of all working age people receiving a benefit as the primary recipient and over 50% of Māori children are growing up in households receiving the main benefit (Ministry of Social Development, 2016).


Ministry of Social Development. (2016). The Social Report 2016 – Te pūrongo oranga tangata. Wellington Ministry of Social Development 2016.

Ministry of Social Development. (n.d.). Benefits and payments. Work and Income website. Available from: https://www.workandincome.govt.nz/eligibility/index.html.

Welfare Expert Advisory Group. (2019). Whakamana Tāngata: Restoring dignity to social security in New Zealand. Welfare Expert Advisory Group. Available from: http://www.weag.govt.nz/assets/documents/WEAG-report/aed960c3ce/WEAG-Report.pdf