CPAG welcomes appointment of Professor Innes Asher to Welfare Expert Advisory Group

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) is delighted with today’s news that Professor Innes Asher, a long-standing member of the organisation, has been selected as a member of the Government’s Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG).

Professor Asher will join a cohort of highly respected professionals working across various fields such as social policy, human rights, welfare, justice, economics, Māori wellbeing and health - including Professor Cindy Kiro, Dr Huhana Hickey, Trevor McGlinchey, Professor Tracey McIntosh, Dr Ganesh Garner, Phil O’Reilly, Robert Reid, Latayvia Tualasea Tautai and Charles Waldegrave, along with CPAG associate Michael Fletcher as Special Advisor.

Professor Asher, a committee member and health spokesperson for CPAG for 20 years, is a paediatrician, Chair of the Global Asthma Network and formerly the Head of the Department of Paediatrics: Child and Youth Health at the University of Auckland. Last year she was appointed as a World Health Organisation Expert on Chronic Respiratory Diseases. Recently she was recognised for work toward reducing child poverty by the New Zealand Medical Association, with their Chair Award.

“This is a wonderful opportunity and I am deeply grateful to the Government’s advisors for their care and consideration towards this issue,” says Professor Asher.

 “I feel honoured and privileged to be included of part of and to work among an independent group of people renowned for their excellent work and expertise. New Zealanders recognise that welfare needs to change, as too many are struggling. I am hopeful that real improvements will come out of this new body of work. ”

Janfrie Wakim, Co-Convenor for CPAG says that the appointment of Innes to the group is significant.  

“We congratulate Innes on this highly appropriate appointment that recognises not only her extensive expertise in the field of children’s health, but also her deep commitment to social justice. We look forward to the result of the far-reaching and timely review of social security and welfare in Aotearoa-New Zealand,” says Wakim.

CPAG celebrates the work of Professor Asher and attributes the recent raise in age to 13 years for free GP access and prescriptions to successful advocacy by herself and others.

“The rise in age for free primary care access is a welcome step in the right direction,” says Professor Asher.

“But there is much more work to be done. Far too many children – about 40,000 each year – present at hospital with preventable illnesses that nowadays are common only in developing countries. The prevalence of such illnesses in New Zealand shows the poor living standards experienced among too many of our families and whānau. We must and we will do better for them – the work of the group is testament to this Government’s commitment to that.”

For years CPAG has insisted all children must be adequately housed in healthy homes, and has emphasised the link to mental and physical ill-health when they are not.

CPAG says that the high-calibre appointments to the WEAG are indicative of  the need for vast changes - but there are urgent changes that can and must be done ahead of any future review findings.

“Right now, families are suffering severe deprivation as a result of benefit sanctions that reduce their children’s livelihoods unjustly. Government must urgently lift all sanctions that impact on children’s lives and restore a welfare system that has at its roots compassion, empathy and the implicit understanding that for individuals to make their own lives better, they should not face worse at the hands of social security in Aotearoa-New Zealand,” says Janfrie Wakim.

Another member of CPAG’s management committee, Professor John O’Neill, was selected to participate in the review of Tomorrow’s Schools in March.