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Child Poverty Monitor highlights importance of family income

"Poorly designed children's income support is a major factor perpetuating child poverty with the damaging effect on children's health and well-being highlighted in this report" says Wakim.

Child Poverty Action Group welcomes the inaugural Child Poverty Monitor and congratulates the Office of the Children's Commissioner, the JR McKenzie Trust and the University of Otago's NZ Child and Youth Epidemiology Service.

The Monitor puts all the known statistics about child poverty in Aotearoa New Zealand in one place along with current statistics on health outcomes. It provides New Zealanders with yet another reminder of our scandalous treatment of the nation's poorest children and the severe, sometimes fatal consequences.

The report shows that 25% of New Zealand children fall under the standard 60% income poverty line and of these 10% are in severe and persistent poverty.

There was a rapid rise in child poverty in the early 1990s and then a fall in the late 1990s.  The report says "after 1998 however, as economic conditions improved, median incomes again rose, while incomes for many low-income households with children did not, resulting in a rise in child poverty up until 2004."

As CPAG pointed out during the 2000s, poor children waited a long time for attention to their plight and finally it came in the form of Working for Families.   The Child Poverty Monitor notes:

"From 2004 to 2007 poverty rates again declined as a result of the Working for Families package."

The improvement in poverty rates of families in work shows income matters. But  CPAG Co-convenor Janfrie Wakim notes "While  Working for Families alleviated some child poverty, a significant part, the In Work Tax Credit, worth at least $60 a week to the caregiver to help with the costs of the children, was denied to the poorest 230,000 children."

The report from the Ministry of Social Development on which the Child Poverty Monitor is based says:

"The fall in child poverty rates from 2004 to 2007 for children in one-Full Time -one-workless 2 Parent households was very large (28% to 9%), reflecting the Working for Families impact, especially through the In-Work Tax Credit."

"From 2007 to 2012, [the poverty rates were] around six to seven times higher for children in workless households.  This to a large degree reflects the greater Working for Families assistance for working families than for beneficiary families." 

The Court of Appeal in May of this year ruled that denying families the IWTC, the part of Working for Families many low income families miss out on, constitutes discrimination. Discrimination in the legal sense requires that real harm is caused; in this case it is significant harm to the 230,000 children and their parents.

New Zealanders, increasingly worried about the poorest children and their future, need to hear what political parties intend to do about ending this damaging division of children into the deserving and undeserving poor.

"Poorly designed children's income support is a major factor perpetuating child poverty with the damaging effect on children's health and well-being highlighted in this report" says Wakim.