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More comprehensive plan needed to end child poverty

 

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) strongly endorses the Children’s Commissioner’s call for all parties to work together to reduce child poverty rates. Using the material hardship measure recommended by Judge Andrew Becroft, the number of New Zealand children suffering serious poverty is currently 149,000.

CPAG and the OCC Expert Advisory Group have been calling for a comprehensive plan to address child poverty, and agree that little will change until the measures are decided, targets are set, significant policies are implemented and progress is monitored.

Successive governments have targeted specific issues relating to child poverty, but so far measured child poverty, whether based on income or material deprivation, has been little affected. Without significant policies, measurable improvements in child poverty that meet targets are not likely.

"Children who grow up in poverty are denied the healthy environment they need to thrive. They live in houses that are damp and cold, they get sick more frequently and are more likely to end up in hospital and have chronic illnesses. They move frequently, so their education is compromised. Their lives are stressful," said Associate Professor Nikki Turner, CPAG health spokesperson.

"These factors combine to mean they are unlikely to reach their potential as adults. The social and economic costs are huge and compounding."

In 2002, the Government finally acknowledged the appalling rates of child poverty in New Zealand. Fourteen years later, despite the Government’s Welfare Working Group, Working for Families (WfF) and the overhaul of Child, Youth and Family (CYF), around one in four children are growing up in income poverty, and almost half those children are in working families.

"The time has passed for arguments about what measure to use," said Associate Professor Susan St John, CPAG economics spokesperson.

"CPAG has concrete suggestions for policies that will make a real difference. One place to start is with an overhaul of Working for Families. There are two things that need to be actioned immediately," says St John.

"First, all low income children must be treated the same for child related tax credits. Adding the In Work tax Credit to the Family Tax credit would deliver an extra $72.50 or more to the worst off families without giving any extra to higher income families.

"Second, all parts of Working for Families need to be adjusted for past inflation and indexed annually to wages as - just as we do for New Zealand Superannuation."

For further information on CPAG's Fix Working for Families campaign visit our website.