Advocates call for base benefit increases

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The Social Development Minister won't promise to increase benefits, in the face of growing demand for hardship grants. Almost 200,000 more hardship grants were made in the three months to December compared with the same period in 2018. In total, more than half a million hardship assistance payments, to help pay for essentials like food and rent, were made. Beneficiary advocates argue increasing the base rate of benefits would drastically reduce the number of people needing help, and allow MSD to concentrate on helping people who can work, find jobs. The Social Development Minister, Carmel Sepuloni, won't say if that move is on the cards. Dr Susan St John is with the Child Poverty Action Group.

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