We shouldn’t need to sponsor kids in NZ

The Dominion Post reports this morning about children’s charity Variety’s new Kiwi Kid sponsorship initiative. For around $35 a month, donors can “sponsor” a New Zealand child living below the poverty line. The donations go towards things like school trips, doctor’s visits, books, and prescriptions.

Variety is not the first charity to offer a “sponsor a child” scheme in New Zealand – KidsCan have offered a $15/month sponsorship scheme for several years now, which provides food at school for a year, a waterproof raincoat, a pair of shoes, two pairs of socks, and basic hygiene items for each sponsored child.

In addition, private companies like Fonterra have also seen the need for action on child poverty and stepped in to provide Milk For Schools, starting with a pilot in Northland that will soon be extended around the country. While there are issues with this scheme (with reports that kids don’t like the taste of the UHT milk, and not all the waste is recyclable), there is no doubt that it is filling a very real need.

What does it say about our values as a country that we have allowed things to get this bad? Why should charities and even big corporates have to step in to provide the most basic necessities for our children?

There’s no doubt that these schemes will be a welcome relief to many families struggling to make ends meet and give their kids what they need. But it will probably also feel pretty rubbish for those parents knowing that they need private sponsorship just to ensure their kids get to go on school trips and visit the doctor. And, if not managed carefully, there could be significant stigma attached to being a “sponsored” child which would only compound the challenges these children face.

I would much prefer to live in a New Zealand where there was a social and political consensus that the state guarantees that every child has the essentials for a good start in life. When we can do that, we guarantee them the opportunity to grow up to make a great contribution, even from the most challenging circumstances.

That means ensuring a living wage for working parents and adequate support for those not in paid work, ensuring there are affordable, healthy homes for families to live in, whether they are renting or buying (on that score, check out our new housing proposals!), and working to close the widening gap between rich and poor. The investment in these policies would be recouped a thousand times over in the savings we would make in the health, education, and justice budgets from having healthy, happy children grow up into constructive, productive adults. It’s a no-brainer.

So yes, it’s good that Variety, KidsCan, and others have stepped in to fill the yawning chasm of child poverty that too many of our kids are falling into. But let’s take this as a challenge and demand governments that will eradicate the need for such schemes by guaranteeing the essentials for all our kids – not just those lucky enough to get a sponsor.

22 thoughts on “We shouldn’t need to sponsor kids in NZ

  1. Or, in the words of Michael Cullen, charity lacks the “‘redemptive power of the state”.

    What cant.

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  2. Great comment Peter George. It’s quite astonishing to me that Holly Walker is opposed to people willingly helping others. It really does call into question the image the Green’s like to portray of themselves as ‘caring and sharing’. Only if the state has a monopoly on it.

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  3. Holly cant say she didn’t set herself up for this ribbing. A really great piece except for one paragraph.

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  4. The welfare state – which was supposed to eliminate poverty – has failed miserably, so the private sector steps in to help.

    This is a bad thing, apparently.

    We do not need more state welfare. State welfare is the cause of most of these problems.

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  5. Yes the problem is that if people think that private charity can cater for provision to children raised in poverty, then there will be the perception that the causes can be neglected.

    And of course the coverage of the children will be sporadic, not universal. And child poverty even for those provided for will not be sufficient, just useful.

    The main principle of useful intervention is that causes are dealt with, not symptoms. One cause of child poverty is the cost of power to heat homes poorly insulated. If homes meet a warranty of fitness then the child’s health will be better and the parents costs lower.

    Universal programmes for child health provision ensure children get seen regularly, whereas a charity sponsored doctors visit still requires the parent to be actively involved in seeking the support and to have their child as one of those in one of these support programmes.

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  6. Universal programmes for child health provision ensure children get seen regularly, whereas a charity sponsored doctors visit still requires the parent to be actively involved in seeking the support and to have their child as one of those in one of these support programmes.

    And the fact that you don’t see parental responsibility and involvement as a benefit of charitable donation is a perfect illustration of the reason why welfare does not alleviate poverty, but enables it.

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  7. SPC has outline the problem with depending on the private sector or charities to step in to what is a community problem, one that this country recognised when it set up the welfare state. Stepping away from collective responsibility for the next generation is another move towards the corporatisation of this country. Why? Who decided that?

    We need more education, for parents as well as children, not less.

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  8. The welfare state – which was supposed to eliminate poverty…

    Thats about as wrong as it is possible to be.

    The welfare state is the safety net, the funder of last resort.

    The private sector is supposed to be the generator of wealth that enables citizens to be fully funded members of society.

    If the welfare state is being involked, then the private sector isn’t living up to its end of the bargain.

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  9. Macdoctor, frankly your comment was nonsense.

    A universal child health programme requires parental involvement – whether it is for the whole of society or for those on welfare.

    That there are private groups that sponsor children is no guarantee that the child sponsored has parents who will be actively involved in taking up the help – such as for doctors visits. The private charity is dependent on the parents being pro-active, but there is no guarantee with voluntary take up by the parents.

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  10. The point being getting help to those who need it, not making the help dependent on parental ability or willingness to be active or the child being one of the few on a special programme.

    The idea that the childs health and welfare should be more dependent on parental ability or willingness to access help is flawed.

    It’s like saying that hardship assistance be available – but unless the parent
    both knows about this and knows how to apply for it they do not receive it.

    This is not about testing the parents worth and only supporting children with the more worthy parents – it is about helping children.

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  11. SPC,

    The idea that the childs health and welfare should be more dependent on parental ability or willingness to access help is flawed.

    Slippery slope to remove the parental responsibility from caring for their own children.

    You suggesting that each child has an extra, state funded, level of carers allocated to them to provide the required necessities to grow up healthy?

    Why not go the whole way and take the children from the parents at birth for the state to bring up?

    Freeing up the parents to work and pay the taxes to fund the state child rearing facilities and staff.

    That would ensure 100% correct, efficient and standardised child raising in NZL.

    Even the Greens wont make that a policy.

    As all child support has to channel through the parent the method the state uses should be investigated.

    No financial help for a starter. Only goods and services required to raise a child should be supplied as and when required.

    How about we make the teaching of child care and raising (including financial costs) an education subject at school?

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  12. You suggesting that each child has an extra, state funded, level of carers allocated to them to provide the required necessities to grow up healthy?

    SPC might not but I would.

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  13. BJ,

    Care to comment on which child upbringing process (terrible word but cant think of a better one) has the final say if there is conflict on how a child is raised, between the parent and the state provided carer?

    Parent or state?

    CYPS do to a degree now, but do you want to take this the whole hog and allocate a state carer for every child?

    Currently the state does best business practise and takes care of the exceptions (bad parents children) not the “good” ones.

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  14. Thats about as wrong as it is possible to be.The welfare state is the safety net, the funder of last resort.

    If only.

    It is an enabler. It perpetrates and grows the very problem it was supposed to solve.

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  15. No financial help for a starter. Only goods and services required to raise a child should be supplied as and when required.How about we make the teaching of child care and raising (including financial costs) an education subject at school?

    This…

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  16. gerrit,

    The term parental responsibility has become a millstone around the necks of the children living in poverty. It is now used as an excuse for child neglect by society.

    And what does the term mean anyway, given parents without the means cannot provide for their children. Does having the means define parental responsibility and lack of means define lack of parental responsibility?

    Yet many use the term parental responsibility to justify not providing parents with the means to provide for their own children. No they won’t support food in schools because parents should feed their own and no they won’t give parents more money to do this because they might misuse the money. Get that, they won’t give the parents the means because they don’t trust them to use it to feed their own children AND they won’t directly intervene to feed the children either. Both positions justified by parental responsibility – thus the term is now used so as to justify not giving aid to alleviate poverty.

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  17. The surprising thing about your position gerrit is that it is more an attack on current government policy than Green policy (who have never been in government) – something you do not seem willing to acknowledge.

    There is the new requirement on beneficiary parents to participate in Well Child B4 School. Is that an infringment by the state on parental responsibility?

    Is the new requirement for children of beneficiaries to be in schooling before 5 an infringement by the state on parental responsibility?

    Is the longstanding universal requirement to have children in school after age 5 an infringement on parental reponsibility? Or to have children under supervision up until age 12?

    Is advocacy of greater medical service presence in schools to check the health of children over the age of 5 a breach of parental responsibility. Places like Sweden provide these services and cannot beleive that we do not. The USA provides food in schools for their children.

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  18. Finally and the ultimate irony you associate what I said

    “The idea that the childs health and welfare should be more dependent on parental ability or willingness to access help is flawed”

    with advocacy for more money for the parent and declare your own oppostion to the state raising up children.

    Then go on to say the government should try and bypass financial assistance to the parent to provide for their own child and only provide direct aid to the child.

    Then having adovcated for that, you then think parental educated might make a difference – how would it, if all aid was direct to the child? Or is this bit just to imply that any parent without the means to provide for their child is not a proper or worthy parent because being on welfare is some sign of having been poorly educated? Or those who have been well educated somehow have special knowledge of how to provide for their child on welfare income levels despite living in a house that is not well insulated and is costly to heat.

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  19. One problem we are facing is going to get worse.

    Up till now many of the children raised up in beneficiary families have been supported by a mother on the DPB after her marriage came to an end. Many of the homes they were raised up in were owned and had been insulated. Of late with home ownership levels falling, there are more children raised by parents on welfare in rental homes that have not been insulated. As the cost of power has risen over the years this means more children in poverty will be facing the health impacts of this.

    This is why improving rental housing and better health checks are an important measure and why more parents will find it difficult to feed their children if we do not act to improve rental housing standard.

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  20. Have to say that the level of care that THIS government has demonstrated with respect to the nation and its adult population and the environment does not fill me with confidence that they would not screw things up.

    :-)

    However, my view is that –

    The State would become responsible for providing a high standard of support for the child, mostly through existing organizations. Principal organizations are schools and libraries… through them the child gets access to books, stationary, computers and internet, uniforms, a decent breakfast and lunch. Those arrangements involve additional “teacher/mentor” roles, associated with the libraries I think, and taking a on both watching for and helping children who need more customised or additional assistance.

    Conflict with the parents is going to depend on the nature of the conflict. Children are IMHO, not “really small adults” and should not be treated (in general) as though they are. Their rights are circumscribed, yet the society needs them to grow into adults capable of making fully informed decisions. As a parent I do my best but I know I do not get that balance right at every juncture.

    I suspect the most egregious conflicts will appear in the ultra-religious contexts. This is a secular society, and it supports many religions but there is a limit to our tolerance of extremes. I don’t have a brief to change anyone’s religion, but I would insist that there be a grounding in a strictly secular responsibilities and definitions, to keep from interfering in other people’s rights and beliefs or harming others as a result of your own. The limits of religious freedom are basically the limits of our bodies, we control those, and nobody else’s.

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  21. The “charity” running this – Variety – is on the Sky City payroll. I had a chat with Variety’s CEO this afternoon. That she sees no moral hazards in this is worrying…

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  22. Perhaps its more basic even than that. It would be better if we started to value ‘caring’ and caring roles such as caring for children and the environment more. It is proven( by what is happening in the Nordic countries) that putting money into caring creates better communities-( including economics). Why are we not doing this?
    Read ‘The power of Partnership’ and ‘ The Real Wealth of Nations’ both by Riane Eisler. For the exposition- also ‘The Chalice and the Blade’

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