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Needs of poorest now must take priority over future tax cuts

Child Poverty Action Group welcomes the government’s acknowledgement in the 2014 budget that it is important to support families with young children, but says there is a long way to go.

Child Poverty Action Group welcomes the government’s acknowledgement in the 2014 budget that it is important to support families with young children, but says there is a long way to go.

Child Poverty Action Group gives full marks to the government for funding free GP visits and prescriptions for all children under 13.  CPAG has advocated long and hard for this policy and congratulates the government on this far-sighted measure.  

Spokesperson Assoc. Prof Nikki Turner said, “The extra funding will make a real difference for sick children. We would push for implementation as soon as feasible. Sick children, especially those in the poorest families, desperately need accessible primary health care right now.” 

Unfortunately the 2014 budget offers little else to assist the 205,000 poorest and most vulnerable children in NZ, who fall below the very low 50% poverty line.  

CPAG says extending Paid Parental Leave is an unaffordable luxury while child poverty rates remain high.  Spokesperson Assoc. Prof Susan St John said, “This costly policy will not impact much, if at all, on child poverty rates in the way that more focused spending on low income families would.   We are pleased to see the criteria widened to include many families that missed out under the rigid old rules.    But even high-income families will be eligible for this tax-payer funded, non-means-tested payment while many low income new-borns miss out.”

The government appears to have a blind spot when it comes to the needs of children in beneficiary families.  It has increased the Parental Tax Credit that goes to some of those who don’t get Paid Parental Leave.  It is now $2200 in total (up from $1200) which is a significant increase for those who qualify.  CPAG urges the government to extend this payment to families who are currently excluded from this support because they receive benefit income, student allowance, pensions or long-term ACC payments.

St John said, “It’s unfair that the most needy new mothers and their new-borns will get no help from these measures that are funded by the taxpayer.”

Susan St John said $42m extra spent on the Parental Tax Credit over 4 years, is a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the $450m per annum that CPAG has been seeking to address the exclusion of over 200,000 of the worst-off children from the full Working for Families package.   “If the government is seriously concerned about inequality it must address the needs of New Zealand’s poorest children who remain largely invisible in this budget.”