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Child Poverty Monitor: Action plan needed now

Rates of poverty, no matter how they are measured, are worse for children than any other group, and a comprehensive Government-led plan must be implemented urgently to achieve real improvement says Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).

The 2016 Child Poverty Monitor results reveal no significant improvement for the lives of children in New Zealand experiencing the effects of poverty, proving that Government efforts to reduce the impact of poverty on children are insignificant. That the numbers remain so persistently high demonstrates that poverty among New Zealand children is enduring and long-term. Policies have made little to no change for the better, for many children.

There are currently 28% of New Zealand’s children living in families where income is less than 60% of the median contemporary income after housing costs (AHC), and 155,000 children experiencing some form of material deprivation, while 8% of children suffer extreme material deprivation.

Rising housing costs mean many more families are turning to food parcel charities for support, while the numbers on social housing registers are increasing. The latest housing register information shows an increase of 35.4 percent compared to the same time last year. Clearly social housing availability has not kept up with the overwhelming need, but more importantly - and urgently - there has been no attempt to equip many families with the means to afford to rent privately. More than half of accommodation supplement recipients spend over 50% of their incomes on housing. Many are living in unhealthy homes. The significant costs leave families little for their children’s needs and a high level of physical and mental health issues result.

"While it’s clear Government cannot meet the demand for housing, what is being fundamentally ignored is the need to address family incomes. The beans thrown at beneficiaries on April 1 this year would have been swallowed up almost entirely by housing costs," said Frank Hogan, CPAG Housing and Law spokesperson.

"Our children deserve a better, more comprehensive plan to lift them up out of poverty," said Associate Professor Dr Nikki Turner, CPAG health spokesperson. "Cherry picking a few isolated strategies, and continuing a strategy of highly targeting only those that are seen as most vulnerable is not changing the situation for our poorest children. We urgently need a comprehensive plan across all political persuasions."

Associate Professor Mike O’Brien, social security spokesperson for CPAG, said, "Child poverty is a major issue which is robbing too many children of their childhoods, but it can be changed if Government is willing to act and commit to an across-the-board plan to have a significant impact. The approach needs to be much wider than just for those in the most significant hardship - narrow targeting will not suffice."

CPAG commends Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft’s dedication to reducing child poverty and supports his call to action, that a significant, Government-led multi-pronged plan to make children’s lives better must be implemented, and be worked towards with a larger, nationwide scale of commitment. If we can provide our most needy children with a better start then we can ensure a better future for ALL New Zealanders, where child well-being is optimum and crime rates are low.