Government doesn't care about child poverty | The Jackal

9 Jun 2012

Government doesn't care about child poverty

We all know that poverty and especially childhood poverty is a terrible thing. Nobody can really argue with the moral case for reducing poverty, but there's also a good economical argument for reducing childhood poverty as well.

Adults who grow up impoverished have lower workforce productivity, early mortality and poorer health later in life. Some studies also show that people who grow up in poverty are more likely to undertake crime. These things costs a developed country with high poverty levels like New Zealand approximately 4% of GDP per year.

It's not like the problem isn't well understood either, with OECD research now showing that 1 in 4 New Zealand children are currently living in poverty.

In feb 2011, 3 News reported: Govt ignoring poverty in favour of economy - Sallies

A new report out today by the Salvation Army claims social progress in New Zealand has ground to a halt.

It says the Government is ignoring important issues such as child poverty in favour of tackling the economic crisis.

“The recession is not an excuse not to do anything about the social agenda or leave the social agenda on hold,” says Campbell Roberts, of the Salvation Army Social Policy Unit.

A new social study claims child poverty is at its highest level since 2006, with more than 200,000 children living in "workless" households.

Violence against children and youth unemployment rates are as high as five years ago.

On Jan 15, Stuff reported: Teen becomes leading voice on child poverty

Clair Mills, the medical officer of health for Northland, says the region has some shocking housing, with issues not only around cold and damp but sanitation and water. "We certainly have high rates of preventable illnesses like rheumatic fever, which really should be a developing country disease."

The government is calling for submissions on a green paper on vulnerable children, but Mills says the problem with the paper is that it mentions poverty once and ignores the big issues of why children are "vulnerable" in the first place.

"I think it's impossible to talk about the vulnerability of children without talking about their families and the situations in which they live. The paper really sidelines some of the major issues facing our children today and focuses on issues like whether we should have compulsory reporting of abuse. To me that's the tip of the iceberg."

On 24 April, 3 News reported: Poverty stays in the family - study

Children brought up in poor families are likely to achieve less at school, earn less and be more welfare dependent.

A study, using data from Otago University's long-running Christchurch Health and Development Study, investigated the impacts of family poverty on children up to the age of 10 and how this was reflected in later life.

The study using information from 987 individuals found the major effects of being brought up in a poor family appear to be a significant reduction in both educational achievement and earning opportunities that was still evident at 30, Professor David Fergusson said.

On 29 May, Stuff reported: Children in poverty 'lost' to education system

At least 1000 Auckland children are "lost" to the education system with 70 per cent of youth offenders not engaged with school at all, a new report reveals.

Poverty is so bad some children are growing up sharing small homes with other families - one family to a room.

The sad findings are contained in a report to Mayor Len Brown, called The Children and Young People of Auckland, which includes insights from a Youth Court judge, the office of the Children's Commissioner and youth panels and advocacy groups.

On 30 May, Voxy reported: Unicef report card on poverty names crisis of monitoring

Every Child Counts says the latest report from the UNICEF Innocenti Research centre in Italy reveals a crisis in monitoring of child poverty and confirms that not protecting children from poverty stores up intractable social and economic problems in the years ahead.

On 30 May, the NZ Herald reported: Child poverty report sparks call for better monitoring

The Unicef report, Measuring Child Poverty, ranked New Zealand 20th out of 35 OECD economies for child poverty.

It used the number of households earning less than 50 per cent of the median income as a measure.

The report also ranked 29 developed countries on deprivation - a measure which looks at the likes of services, opportunities and possessions rather than income alone.

New Zealand was not included in deprivation rankings because the data was not up to date.

On 30 May, Voxy reported: Government policy impacting child poverty levels

The report, from UNICEF's Innocenti Research Centre, brings together the latest data on child poverty and deprivation across the world's advanced industrial economies. It uses the measure of a poverty line as a household receiving less than 50% of median disposable household income.

On this basis, New Zealand comes in at number 20 of 35 countries. New Zealand is above the UK and Japan but below Australia, Ireland, Hungary and Slovakia.

The report maintains that poverty is not an inevitable situation but is susceptible to government policy. Dennis McKinlay, Executive Director at UNICEF NZ, said, 
"The Government needs to do a lot better for our children in New Zealand. As this report shows, policy choices have a significant impact on the lives of our young people. The right choices give young people the opportunity for a good start in life and have the ability to solve some of our most serious social problems."
New Zealand's spending on children and families is relatively high on the league table at 3% of GDP.
McKinlay added, "It could be said that a good proportion of that spending is in remedial services, to counter the effect of low spending in the early years of a child's life, which is less than half of the OECD average.

On 31 May, Voxy reported: Heads out of the sand NZ - CPAG

CPAG agrees with UNICEF that the prevention of child poverty and social exclusion belong at the heart of policy making, whether at national, regional, or local level. International comparison shows that child poverty in industrialised countries is not inevitable, but influenced by government policy as CPAG has long said. Some countries are doing much better than others at protecting their most vulnerable citizens.

This is but a small selection of the many hundreds of articles concerning childhood poverty in New Zealand. Here's some of the solutions recommended by the experts:

  • Universal pre-kindergarten programs
  • Various elementary and secondary school reforms
  • Expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and other income supports for the working poor
  • Free Job training for poor adults
  • Higher minimum wages, increased benefits and more collective bargaining
  • Low-income neighborhood revitalization, housing mobility and affordability

And the government's response.... National want to talk about solutions with their Green Paper (PDF) instead of making changes now. Paula Bennett also put out a video, which effectively means nothing!

National have failed... Basically because they really don't give a damn.