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Child Poverty needs to be a priority

How serious is the government about taking effective measures to reduce child poverty? This is the question which the Child Poverty Action Group poses to the government in the light of the Salvation Army’s 2016 State of the Nation report. CPAG social security spokesperson Mike O’Brien says: “The report shows that New Zealand’s economy has experienced reasonable growth over the last seven years. This provides the economic conditions to match the expressions of concern about child poverty with real action. Why are we are not seeing this action?”.

The data in the Army’s report is clear – there has been little change in child poverty numbers over the last seven years when we could have made a deliberate choice to establish a credible, affordable and systematic plan to improve the economic circumstances of the country’s poorest children and their families. Associate Professor Mike O’Brien says government deliberate decision not to act for the poorest children and their families can only be described as a moral and economic failure. “While the benefit increases in April will be of some assistance, much of this is eroded in various ways and is worth much less in real terms than $25 per family” he says. “Moreover, children and their families have had to wait until April 2016 for this payment while politicians have had their salary increase back dated. Child poverty is, then, clearly a low priority for this government”.

A library of reports over recent years, including from the Children’s Commissioner and CPAG research, have highlighted the need for a concerted plan to reduce child poverty, and the immediate and enduring effects of continuing to fail to act meaningfully. ‘Moving Targets’, the title of the 2016 State of the Nation report, makes it clear that New Zealand needs a plan to reduce child poverty. Associate Professor O’Brien says that this will only happen if government chooses to give poor children and their families the priority which they so desperately need.