News

UN report on child poverty shows urgent action needed

The recent United Nations report provides startling evidence that New Zealand has departed from its once past proud record on social issues to having a blatant lack of regard for children and families  who are most in need.

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says the report shows we are clearly failing our children. The Government must step up and take significant action.

One obvious place to start is to remove the discrimination inherent in Working for Families (WFF) to immediately improve the lives of the children in poorest families and reduce economic disparities, particularly for Maori and Pasifika families.

"Abolishing the In-Work Tax Credit and adding $72.50 to the first child Family Tax Credit at a cost of around $500m is the most cost effective way to immediately reduce child poverty. Why doesn't the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) model this policy for its impact?” Asks Associate Professor Susan St John, CPAG economics spokesperson.

“The MSD itself says that denying this payment to ‘workless’ families’ has meant the poverty rates in those families did not improve when WFF was introduced.”

The cuts to benefits in the 1990s meant families already living week to week fell further and further into poverty. Successive governments have done little to repair the damage and child poverty has recently been sidetracked into pointless debates over measurement.

The Child Poverty Monitor reports more than 300,000 children living below the 60% measured poverty line after housing costs (AHC) - and nearly 150,000 children suffering persistent material deprivation - meaning they go without basic needs on a regular basis. The UN which has set out a number of remedial actions for New Zealand to take to honour its commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC).

“Historically our international reputation on social matters has been a source of pride but this UN report is a powerful reminder of the frailty of that reputation,” says Frank Hogan, CPAG law and child rights spokesperson.

“The Government’s response to what clearly is a crisis of great proportion is a blight on our performance as a caring nation and we have failed our children, and will fail the next generation more drastically if we do not respond now, to ensure that ALL families are equipped with the means to provide their children’s basic needs from birth,” said Hogan.

CPAG endorses the comments of Dr Sarah Te One, Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa (ACYA): "New Zealand is at a turning point in the way we, as a nation, regard children and their rights. We need to make sure there is increased concern on issues that impact on children, and that the measures to make sure policies, practices and service delivery are child-centred are implemented well."

CPAG says it is high time Government stopped quibbling over measurements, when we do in fact have ones that are effective and internationally recognised. Government should respond most urgently to the raw and staring facts. Poverty is escalating, children are suffering and homeless numbers are rising. We need only to look to the overwhelmed charities who are unable to meet the demand for financial support and food parcels for evidence. Fixing the flaws in Working for Families is the best place to start.