Child poverty and the government response

In October Child Poverty Action released a report ‘Benefit sanctions: Creating an invisible underclass of children?’ which found government policy “… effectively creates a class of economically vulnerable, invisible and unequal children whose wellbeing is intimately tied to the welfare/labour market status of their caregivers. This necessarily means some children will not have the same opportunities as their peers”

Last week Unicef released a report on children’s rights in New Zealand and found that New Zealand has failed to put children’s rights into domestic law and failed to prioritise child poverty.

Today the Commissioner for Children released their child poverty Monitor that has found 265,000, that’s 25% , of our children are living in poverty and 10% are living in severe and persistent poverty.

This morning the Prime Minister focussed on the numbers saying” if you look at some of the graphs I’ve seen they show poverty is actually lower.

In the face of consistent critical reports the government refuses to measure poverty or put a plan in place to reduce it and in fact continues to implement policies that will entrench and exacerbate it.

Child Poverty in New Zealand has doubled since the 80s even though working for Families significantly reduced child poverty for children whose parents were in work. Both of these things tell us poverty is amenable to policy intervention; income support rates above the poverty rate, EEO policies, collective bargaining and strong employment laws would all significantly reduce child poverty.

As Nelson Mandela said
“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”

If we guarantee the essentials we guarantee the opportunities. If we don’t then we’re locking a whole segment of our population into lifelong injustice. Our children and our country deserve better.

14 Comments Posted

  1. The rights of children must be cared for and monitored, because the early years of a person’s life are the most important, I’m glad how are you measures for the protection of children was taken.

  2. I grew up in a country where full employment was the priority & everyone seemed to get a ‘fair go’ BUT all I hear these days is political SPIN about the unemployment numbers, beneficiary bashing & worst of all; the rich are getting richer & the rest of us are fighting over the scraps left over ! Aotearoa/NZ used to be ‘Godzone’ now its turned into ‘Planet Key’ (a crony capitalists paradise), where more kids are living in poverty !!

    kia ora (?)

  3. Looking at the wider issue of change over the past 30 years, the most important one is that for most families the necessary dependency on two incomes to cope. Two incomes leads to the rising capacity to service the loans required to bid up residential land values and thus of course the problem of affording a family and a home on one income.

    To date we have tried to resolve this via WFF tax credits.

    However, I would still argue the case for making partners eligible for a dole payment when unemployed – with the same exemptions from work test as apply for the DPB.

    This would restore common cause between women who were with partners and women who were sole parents.

    WFF tax credits could still apply where two parents were both on low incomes and needed a top up to support their children and afford housing.

  4. keith Ross, yes it is plainly obvious that the cost of necessities such as housing, power and public transport, etc, has gone up faster than benefit increases (held down by the CPI weighting to non necessity items – cheaper imports) – thus income insufficiency is growing.

  5. hemihua, the term you use for a sufficiency of welfare support “comfortable enough” is a term only relevant to those unable to find work that provides more. Those who would be unemployed regardless of whether they had children. And these people often come from a background of poverty, poor health and poor education.

    Given the government has addressed the issue of “comfortable enough” to have more children while on the benefit by changing eligibility to prevent this, what is the reason for keeping those on the DPB in poverty?

  6. db, while i would have to agree with you that having six kids is not environmentally sustainable, i do not think that is relevant to this discussion. Most people in this situation are probably not aware that there are any environmental issues of any great consequence. For example, if one were to rely on the six o’clock news for such knowledge, then global warming would present as a highly contested and even radical “theory”. You cannot argue that people are guilty of abuse if they have no knowledge of the consequences of their actions.

  7. clearly hemihua is under the illusion that there is a throw money at them plan in place. The reality is that every year for many years now less and less money has been “thrown “at the problem leading to a much larger and more complex problem.So by hemihua’s logic throwing less money has made the problem worse, then throwing more money should make the problem smaller.It is plain to everyone that you can buy a lot less for the amount that beneficiaries currently receive than they received ten years ago.

  8. Yes, Hemihua, Having six kids you can’t support is abuse – if you know at the outset you won’t be able to support them. However if the local saw mill or freezing works closes down and the old man deserts the family because he is either ashamed that he can no longer provide or is not able to cope with the stress, the family falls victim to circumstances outside their control.The Government is responsible to the nation to provide a stable economic platform and decent employment. The fact that they choose to remain within an economic model that plainly does not work is no excuse. What families with 6 kids do with a properly ordered financial and job market is up to them but while society allows the status quo we can hardly blame those on the bottom of the heap for their plight. What I am saying is that the government needs to live up to its responsibilities and allow us to respond to that responsibly.

  9. And having 6 kids you can’t support isn’t child abuse?

    Sucks for the kids but short of them becoming wards of the state what can be done? Give them comfortable enough support and why would they ever want to work?

    The standard answer from the left is ‘throw money at the parents’. Clearly this isn’t working, where are the new ideas?

  10. Poverty equals injustice. John Key’s avoidance of the issue is tantamount to child abuse and cannot be tolerated! A real statesman would swallow his pride, admit that one child in poverty is one too many and seek urgently to address the issue. In contrast Key is arguing numbers and excusing his non-commpassion by talking about the “complexity” of the issue whilst avoiding the simplicity of feeding and housing a child. The key problem in this issue is the problem with Key! We need a Prime Minister who has the guts to be Prime Ministerial. (Norman?)

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