Reducing child poverty is the best investment

With the inaugural Child Poverty Monitor showing that 16 % of kiwi kids will live in poverty for much of their childhood, I was stunned to hear the Social Development Minister say she was “incredibly proud” of her Government’s record for children.

Asked if she had a target for reducing child poverty Paula Bennett instead reeled off initiative after initiative that supposedly did good things for children, all the while missing the nub of the problem:

If these initiatives are failing to make a difference to the grinding reality of poverty for children; the kind of poverty that means some kids are three times as likely to end up in hospital than others, then what really is the point?

Which is precisely what the Children’s Commissioner was trying to show with his Child Poverty Monitor; if the Government wants to know whether its decisions are working to reduce child poverty, it first needs to measure it. Then it will be accountable for what those measurements show.

The Public Health Advisory Committee recommended the Government set targets for reducing child poverty as far back as 2009, and suggested that the Health Minister should explicitly name child health as his number one priority.

Papers released to me under the OIA show that health officials agreed, and advised the minister that a child poverty measurement would have a significant impact on child health, but the recommendation went nowhere.

Officials also agreed that the recommendation to elevate child health to an explicitly named priority would improve the health of children but, they noted, to do so would, “compete with existing Government priorities”.

Now more than ever it is time for reducing child poverty to be the Government’s main priority, and for children’s health to be the Health Ministry’s top priority.

Reducing Child Poverty and improving child health is an investment in New Zealand’s future, it is not a cost.

11 thoughts on “Reducing child poverty is the best investment

  1. While an interesting academic debate can be had about which of the four most recognised measures of poverty (60% of median before or after housing, using a price adjusted measure or incomes or a moving) is interesting and what National are hiding behind the stark reality is that steps the reduce the effects of poverty are peicemeal.
    I suggested this week, via a media statement on Tuesday for the Benefit Rights Service that FTC increase by 20%…suggesting in fact Parliament could reconvene and pass under urgency the increase, effective before Christmas. (I am sadly(!?) not contactable by mobile this week so unsure what interest the statement had….)
    I also noted too that Mr Speaker did not even recognise the Children’s Commissioner’s report of sufficient importance to even have an urgent debate.
    In some countries based on Westminster conventions the Minister would have resigned…but I uges we don’t, and in anycase the problem is deeper than dear Paula.

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  2. They think that we don’t have a future, and that they can avoid being caught in the collapse.

    Ironic, given that we seem to be collapsing a bit less than a lot of the bigger countries.

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  3. Perhaps the government needs to rethink the subsidy programme for home insulation if not enough rental properties are being upgraded?

    A WOF approach would be more effective and be cheaper.

    Also the problem lack of saving and high cost debt is onerous and places people into poverty, so low cost finance and re-finance of debt to those receiving budgeting should be made widely available. This problem will increase soon when mortgage rates go up and those with mortgages and credit cards find themselves in trouble.

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  4. It seems to me the drivers of poverty are the costs of accommodation and other essentials. The rate of main benefits, the FTC and other forms of assistance that are provided by simply meeting certian criteria, such as the accommodation supplement has meant those below the poverty line for any length of time face a myriad of problems leading to ingrained hardship.
    Work and Income for its part are taking more and more narrow interpretation of hardship applications, such as not providing assistance for power arrears or rent arrears because of too much existing debt to them or food for non-custodial parents who nevertheless have parenting orders for 25-49% of their children’s care.
    Consequence, debt to loan sharks, children going hungery or untreated health issues.

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  5. After lower power bills via WOF housing and low cost finance or re-finance of debt to reduce costs against low incomes, I would add to the food in schools programme, with toothbrushes and toothpaste (if not via schools via food banks) to ensure dental health care affordability.

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  6. It seems to me the drivers of poverty are the costs of accommodation and other essentials.

    Given that by “poverty” one usually means families with incomes less than 60% of median income after housing costs, then, yes, that is a numeric certainty.

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  7. If I had a magic wand, I would transform the countries housing stock to upgrade poorly insulated and draughty homes.

    This one mewasure alone would seriously reduce childhgood asthma, and a variety of other respiratory diseases, freduce absenteeism from school and work due to respiratory deisease. This would reduce medical costs everywhere, improve education trhough better attendence, and improve business productivity.

    A fabulous set of outcomes. Make bugger all difference to the poverty statistics though, so not a cats chance in hell of such sensible measures being adopted.

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  8. dbuckley, it is virtually a certainty that a Labour-Green coalition government would require the insulation of all rental property within a number of years of taking office. It is a proposed WOF standard for rental property.

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  9. …insulation of all rental property…

    Thats a start, I suppose. A dramatic overhaul of the building regs would also be a really smart thing to do. And probably a guaranteed loser at the election. “Look, the trots are going to make your house 15% more expensive to build”…

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  10. Nationalising non-owner-occupied housing will reduce poverty, as would housingWOF, but lets challenge the spendingon surplus and argue for an increase in the FTC.
    This is not about protecting home-owners who occipy their homes but children in poverty.
    Whereas Mary and Joseph escaped a tryant, most mothers of by childs saw them die. Lets focus on solutions.

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  11. “Officials also agreed that the recommendation to elevate child health to an explicitly named priority would improve the health of children but, they noted, to do so would, “compete with existing Government priorities”.”
    Why do not they say what these priorities are?

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