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Budget 2017: Will it turn the tide?

Children and families need more than just fair-weather promises, says Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) Wellington.

“This year our children deserve a sea change. In previous budgets there has been little commitment to alleviating hardship among our worst-off children,” says Gay Keating, of Wellington CPAG.

“It’s time for a full-scale commitment - and that must include a plan to boost spending across all areas, from incomes, to housing and education.

“Last year the Budget offered merely a Band-Aid for child poverty.”

The annual Wellington Post-Budget Breakfast event, hosted by Child Poverty Action Group and the Public Health Association (CPAG) will take place this Friday, May 26 at The Boatshed on Taranaki Street Wharf, from 7:15am.

Guest speakers at the event will include:

Alan Johnson, CPAG’s housing expert and social policy analyst for The Salvation Army's Social Policy & Parliamentary Unit.  He is author of Off the Track which is The Salvation Army's 2017 State of Nation report. In his spare time he is a community activist in South Auckland where he is active as an administrator in local sports clubs and as a school trustee. He has also held positions as a trustee of the Auckland Community Housing Trust and as the Chair of Community Housing Aotearoa. He has an academic background in town planning and economics and has been involved in Auckland local government for over 20 years both as a politician and bureaucrat.

Laura O’Connell Rapira,  Director of Campaigns at ActionStation – a community organisation representing over 100,000 members that combines digital tools and people powerto drive a fairer, more just and sustainable Aotearoa. She is also the Co-founder of RockEnrol – a volunteer-run organisation dedicated to building and activating political power for young people through grassroots community organising and popular culture.

John Ryall, the Assistant National Secretary of E tū, representing low income workers (including about 9,000 who work as care and support workers in aged care, disability support and community mental health). E tū has been involved alongside other unions in winning minimum wage rights.  E tū, on behalf of caregiver Kristine Bartlett, took a case through the courts arguing that tens of thousands of low paid women were underpaid because their jobs suffered from historical gender undervaluation. John was the lead negotiator for the group of unions who recently won a $2.06 billion settlement from the Government for 55,000 care and support workers.

There will also be brief commentary from the floor provided by Keriata Stewart (Strategic Advisor, Maori Public Health, PHA); Jess Berentson-Shaw (Morgan Foundation, co-author of Pennies from Heaven); Amanda Malu (Chief Executive, Plunket); Amanda Coulston (Chief executive, Whānau Manaaki Kindergartens; India Logan-Riley (Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute) and Steph McIntyre (Director, DCM).

Dr Nikki Turner, CPAG health spokesperson says that the Government must prioritise health spending on services for children, including extending the zero-fees scheme for primary healthcare and prescriptions for all children up until they turn 18.

“There is a gap for adolescents who are susceptible to mental and physical health problems,” says Dr Turner, “and it is imperative that these young people have ease of access to healthcare.

“Addressing poverty, which has a huge effect on the physical and mental wellbeing of children from before birth and on into their adult lives, has got to be the Government’s priority.

“ We need more than just solutions in healthcare  delivery however. As we have said in the past, cherry-picking one or two solutions over taking an integrated planned approach is not going to work.  It does not provide a full-scale solution to the situation for many children where ill health is driven by substandard housing, and insufficient income to meet all their basic needs. It is time to make an integrated plan, with agreement across all political parties.  

Child Poverty Action Group will present its analysis of what the budget holds for children and families at Post-Budget Breakfast events held in four centres throughout New Zealand on May 26 and in Nelson on May 31.