CPAG Annual Reports are presented at our Annual General Meeting each year and give a brief summary of the year's work.
A difference in the greater Aotearoa policy environment since the election of the Labour-led coalition Government, affecting CPAG's work over 2018/19, was the advent of a new child poverty agenda, including new legislation and the development of a framework for wellbeing. But things have not moved nearly enough for many of us involved in CPAG and in anti-poverty activism more generally. Comprehensive reform of the welfare system and ensuring that all families have adequate incomes, for their physical and mental health needs has been a key focus for CPAG in our work over the year, with a new campaign entitled Welfare Fit for Families, strategic collaborations with ActionStation and We Are Beneficiaries, and new research to support the recommendations we made in our submissions during the period.
The focus of CPAG activities in 2017/18 was the election which gave us room to develop policy recommendations based on the most recent Government policies so that we are promoting the best possible changes to reduce the burden of child poverty on families and our society. It was a productive year for this kind of work, with our various election campaign documents, a delve into the history of welfare changes that have impacted on families and children and a range of submissions to Select Committees on new legislation that will impact on children’s outcomes, such as the Child Poverty Reduction Bill and Changes to the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.
2016 was a productive year for CPAG with the launch of a campaign to Fix Working for Families, a partnership with Park Up For Homes, which saw the profile of homelessness raised in New Zealand, including a heartening media and political response with more promises of social and temporary housing. Despite a profoundly disappointing Budget for families, a raft of other improvements can be projected into the 2017 election year.
In the 2015/16 year we saw a shift in attitudes around improving income and housing polices as soultions to the growing child poverty levels. The $25 increase to benefits in the 2015 budget was heartening alhtough it did not come without strings attached.
The 2014/15 year was a particularly busy and productive period for the Child Poverty Action Group. With a general election in September, CPAG worked to bring the plight of New Zealand's poorest citizens to wider public attention and to gain the support of politicians and policy makers for policy recommendations to eliminate child poverty.
CPAG released a series of papers on five key areas contributing to child well-being in New Zealand: health, early childhood care and education (ECCE), compulsory schooling, housing and family incomes, subsequently published as Our children, our choice: priorities for policy. This major update of CPAG's earlier policy documents, Left Behind and Left Further Behind, was a significant exercise which drew on the expertise and experience of senior academics and practitioners throughout New Zealand and we are grateful for their authoritative voluntary contributions.
As a country, we could protect our children from poverty, as we have the elderly. There are immediate and long term solutions that could be implemented if we choose to. There are sound, comprehensive policies that would significantly reduce the scandalous number of children suffering the effects of poverty.
It will take cross party agreement to make the changes necessary. Policies must prioritise the most vulnerable children and enable support to be provided without discrimination and properly adjusted for both prices and wages. It will take significant public support to achieve this.
Could it be that a tipping point is imminent, the magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behaviour crosses a threshold and change happens? Can Savage’s heritage, a fair go for all, be rekindled? The election in September 2014 will be significant. They are our children. Our choices now determine their future.
It’s well within our power as a nation to ensure that every child has their basic needs met as we do for the elderly. In a country like New Zealand, with ample resources, child poverty could be eliminated completely. It’s all about choice.
In the current economic and political climate, is the wellbeing of New Zealand’s children a key issue? It is difficult not to arrive at the conclusion that it is not. Furthermore, of all ourchildren, poor children matter least of all. Yes, there has been some lip service and headline grabbing pronouncements but there is also a complete failure to acknowledge and attend to the major issues that are the root causes of child poverty.