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Child poverty shows no sign of improvement

This important monitoring report of the poverty hardship and inequality in New Zealand shows that there is still one quarter of all New Zealand Children below the poverty line. This means we are still tolerating a highly unacceptable level of hardship deprivation and ill health among our children with no end in sight.

The report highlights the cumulative impact of multiple disadvantage on life chances and outcomes, especially for children.  But Assoc. Prof O’Brien says the report itself draws attention to the fact that income matters.

Child Poverty Action Group welcomes the careful work of the Household Incomes in New Zealand: Trends in Indicators of Inequality and Hardship report from the Ministry of Social Development.

“This important monitoring report of the poverty hardship and inequality in New Zealand shows that there is still one quarter of all New Zealand Children below the poverty line. This means we are still tolerating a highly unacceptable level of hardship deprivation and ill health among our children with no end in sight.” says CPAG convenor Assoc. Prof Mike O’Brien.

The report highlights the cumulative impact of multiple disadvantage on life chances and outcomes, especially for children.  But Assoc. Prof O’Brien says the report itself draws attention to the fact that income matters.

While 265,000 fall below the 60% poverty line, 175,000 children are below the very stringent poverty line of 50% median income, and most of these are in families that do not have a parent in full time work and most rely on the sole parent benefit.

From the above figures for every 100 children living in poverty, 60 will be living in chronic poverty. Chronic poverty is where the average household income over several years is below the average poverty threshold.

“These families need more income and not promises that their problems will be solved if they get into work,” says O Brien

“The fact remains there hasn’t been any effective government response to child poverty and the current welfare reform is not the solution.”

The In Work Tax Credit is a payment made to the caregiver to meet the weekly costs of children and to reduce child poverty. It makes a difference for families in paid work, but unfortunately the children in families who do not work the required number of hours do not get the benefit of this payment that is worth $60 or more a week. CPAG says the most effective way to reduce child poverty is to give children’s payments to all low income children on the same basis. A policy which relies on paid work is not a solution to child poverty.

“The inequity of denying the poorest children a much needed payment is illuminated by this report ,” says Assoc. Prof O’Brien. He says CPAG is still awaiting a decision by the Court of Appeal regarding its case that the Working For Families package discriminates against children living in homes where a benefit is the main income.