Children bearing brunt of recession
Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) is concerned by results from a recent study showing that children in low-income households, especially Maori and Pasifika children, appear to bearing the brunt of the recession. The group notes that while New Zealand continues to be a great place for most children, others remain vulnerable to economic hardship, especially unemployment.
The just released report from the New Zealand Child and Youth Epidemiology Service clearly shows an increase in the number of Maori and Pasifika children admitted to hospital for infectious and respiratory diseases since the recession began in 2007.
CPAG’s health spokesperson Dr Nikki Turner says that while it is hard to draw direct links, there is little doubt that the increase in hospital admissions reflects the increase in unemployment experienced by Maori and Pasifika. “Infectious and respiratory diseases are sensitive to the social and economic environment. When families face severely restricted incomes such as being on a benefit they suffer stress, poor diet, and are more likely to live in overcrowded housing. Children are also vulnerable to inequitable distribution of resources within households, especially when they are in multi-family households.”
CPAG has called for greater investment in all children, including greater support for families receiving social security payments. Dr Turner said that the deteriorating state of children’s health was the most obvious sign that New Zealand is not investing enough in childrens’ early years. “These children are tomorrow’s citizens. Many respiratory illnesses suffered in childhood result in permanent damage and disability in adulthood. We have an ageing population, and cannot afford to ignore the wellbeing of these children,” she said.
CPAG has endorsed the recommendation of the Alternative Welfare Working Group for the In-Work Tax Credit to be extended to all low-income families as an immediate support for families on benefits. This would put an extra $60 per week in the pockets of thousands of families so they could better afford basic items including food and clothing.