Demand for Emergency Dental Grants in New Zealand Soars | 1 NEWS


The number of Kiwis receiving benefits requiring emergency dental grants is skyrocketing – while a Labor Party campaign pledge that would increase the grant to $ 1,000, has not been kept.

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There are calls for the government to urgently increase the $ 300 grant for emergency works. Source: 1 NEWS

By Jessica Mutch McKay and Lillian Hanly

Right now, people on low income or on an allowance can access grants of $ 300 to pay for emergency oral care, but they have to reimburse everything in addition to it. Many of these recipients are clustered with loans averaging $ 704, up from $ 480 five years ago.

New figures from the Department of Social Development show that the number of grant applications has increased dramatically over the past four years.

In 2020, 87,000 allowances for emergency dental care were granted, an increase of almost 20,000 from those allocated in 2016. At the same time, the total cost of emergency grants and loans has increased from $ 24 million in 2016 to $ 41 million in 2020.

Dental work. Source: 1 NEWS

Dr Assil Russell of Revive A Smile Dental Charity said they are “inundated with requests every day for people who are in extreme pain, who are in pain and who cannot access affordable dental care.”

And the cost of dental treatment is rising, Russell adding that more and more people are going into debt because they are paying for dental treatments that cost more than the $ 300 grant.

“Often this can be deducted from their benefits, and they don’t have enough benefits to meet the daily costs.”

Dr Russell said the effects of postponing dental care were enormous, urging policymakers to understand that the problem is not just about dental care, “it is about the overall health and well-being of a woman. no one”.

“When you are in pain, it is very difficult for you to function and be an active member of society.

“It’s hard to go to work, to take care of your family. The other thing is that it has a huge impact on your mental health.

She said patients often told them “that they are too embarrassed to smile, that they cannot talk to their mokopuna, that they are too afraid to go to a job interview because their teeth are are so unsightly, or have swelling or bad breath from a dental infection. “

New Zealand Dental Association president Dr Katie Ayers said the $ 300 grant cap was the same in 1995.

“It hasn’t increased at all for over 25 years, so there’s no way we can use this as being enough to get a patient in good dental health, all it will do is maybe -be allowed to treat a tooth.

Dr Ayers was concerned about the growing amount of debt people would face in dealing with emergencies.

“We know there is an urgent need for urgent funding for dental care,” she said.

Labor pledged in the last election to increase the emergency dental grant from $ 300 to $ 1,000.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last September, ahead of the election, that the increase in the grant was “a recognition that after about two decades we have not seen an increase in the amount of funding for low-income people. income and very restricted in accessing dental care. “.

In the 2021 budget, this recognition was nowhere to be found.

Greens for Social Development spokesman Ricardo Menéndez March said they were “disappointed that with an already slow pace in welfare reform, this is one of the many promises on which Labor languished “.

“Extending it to cover a thousand dollars would be a start to providing more dental care to people.

“Ultimately, we should consider expanding dental care to more people in New Zealand so people don’t just have emergency extractions.”

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the increase in the grant promised by Labor would occur during this government’s tenure, but gave no indication of the date.

A statement from the minister’s office said today that they know debt is a problem and are taking a multi-agency approach to address it.

“Tackling the impact of debt on families is also a key part of overhauling social assistance. This work will consist of examining the factors and areas with the greatest impact on reducing the debt of those in difficulty so that the system is fair and consistent.

Figures for the first quarter of 2021 show that if the upward trend continues, it is likely that 2021 would have an even higher price tag than in previous years.

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