The wellbeing of our children has been my driving force ever since I became a politician. In a rich country like New Zealand there really is no excuse for the unbelievably high rates of child poverty we have, and there are lots of things we can do to fix that. In fact, I believe we need to be doing all we can to ensure every child has enough to thrive.
The Green Party has proposed a whole range of policies and ideas aimed at improving the lives of children. We’re open to new ideas too.
Part of the answer is creating more jobs, closing the gender pay gap, and making sure wages grow faster than the cost of living.
Watch this space over the next few months for some updated, exciting ways we propose to give all Kiwi kids the best possible start in life.
We’re serious about it. Last election we promised to invest $1 billion ending child poverty. But it’s not just about how much you invest, it’s about what you invest it in. Here are some of our ideas.
Our Kids Kiwisaver plan would set all children up with the beginnings of a nest egg that they can use later in life to invest in tertiary education or a first home.
We’d pay $1,000 into a Kiwisaver account when every child is born. For families living below the poverty line, we’d continue to pay $200 into their Kids Kiwisaver account each year until that child turns 18.
Families themselves would be encouraged to make their own contributions, with 1 for 1 matching of annual contributions up to $100. For all other families, we’d match their contributions up to $200 a year.
The outcome of this is that on their 18th birthday, our children would have an average nest egg of over $12,000 with which to start their adult life.
Wahakura welcome packs
One way to make sure our kids have the essential things they need is to provide them with a wahakura – a woven flax basket, safe for sleeping in until about 6 months of age, with things like bedding, a towel, clothes, bibs, and reusable nappies.
We’ve based this idea on a very successful programme in Finland, where they call it a pepi pod.
It’s a cheap and very effective way to help ensure our babies are healthy and it delivers a message to new parents that we’ve got their backs.
At the 2014 election, the Green Party proposed two tax credits for families.
Our Children’s Tax Credit would extend the support that working parents get to the children of beneficiaries. Some of our poorest children are in beneficiary households, so they don’t have access to Working for Families tax credits. This would help these kids out by $60 a week. That might not sound like much but in many households it’s the difference between being able to afford healthy food or not, or being able to turn on the heater in winter.
We’d also extend the Parental Tax Credit to beneficiary families. This pays $220 a week for the first 10 weeks of a child’s life, for parents who don’t qualify for parental leave.
You might remember the political movement to feed the kids by providing school lunches. It’s a simple fact that hungry kids don’t learn as well.
The Feed the Kids Bill was an initiative from Hone Harawira, but when he left Parliament I was proud to take it over and help build public and political support for it.
There are some businesses and community groups doing a great job with food in schools, but too many schools don’t get enough support. This is not the kind of thing that should be left to chance.
The Green Party would like to see a national school lunch fund available to all decile 1-4 schools, and other schools if they need it.
And we nearly did it. Unfortunately, when it came time for Parliament to vote on this, we lost by one vote.
Health and education
Last election we also proposed to invest $500 million in improving healthcare and education, with a focus on children. That includes turning schools into “school hubs”. The idea is that schools already play important roles in their communities, so let’s resource them to become the heart of their community with nurses and social services. We’d start with schools where there’s the most need in the communities that most lack these wrap-around services.
We’re always looking for new ideas to make kids’ lives better in New Zealand. Sometimes that means helping the kids directly and other times it means helping their parents. Sometimes there’s an idea that would work for all children, and other times specific children or families need very particular types of support.
We look at small scale things that are working in particular communities and we think about whether they’d work nationwide. We look overseas for what’s working well in other countries.
I meet often with a huge range of experts, from mums to economists.
I know that in Government, this is an area where we will make a huge difference.
It’s time to change the government.
Note: all costings were current at the time of policy development.