Band-aids won't do it for the 2016 Budget


Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says for too long scraps have been thrown at the festering sore of child poverty in New Zealand. The 2016 budget must not further disappoint.

Changes to benefits and Working for Families (WFF), introduced on April 1 this year merely scratched the surface of the desperate need. 

CPAG economics spokesperson, Associate Professor Susan St John says, "The 2016 budget must do more than tinker with the issue."

Generous and inclusive weekly child payments to the caregiver are required. The 2015 budget made much of the $12.50 per week increase to WFF, but this represented nothing more than an overdue inflation catch-up to the iniquitous In-Work Tax Credit (IWTC). Unfortunately low income families that do not qualify for this child-related measure have had nothing extra from WFF.

"Much bolder and comprehensive actions are required to fix the many failures and anomalies of Working for Families," says St John. 

CPAG health spokesperson Professor Innes Asher says, "Affordable, healthy housing is a critical issue, but low-income families must also have enough money to provide the basic necessities for their children. Anne Tolley admitted that 230,000 - around one in five - children in New Zealand are ‘vulnerable’. They miss out on many of their basic needs: a good bed, fresh fruit and vegetables, warm clothing. They become sick and stressed. Many are permanently harmed by inadequate resources. These children are prevented from fulfilling their potential and in consequence our society is affected too.

 "We know increasing numbers of New Zealanders are concerned about child poverty and the growing inequality between the 'haves' and 'have-nots', and rank this as the number one issue for our nation. 

"People also know that the Government could lift children out of poverty by improving housing and raising incomes for families on income support benefits and in low-paid work. Evidence shows that parents would spend the extra money on their children, and that it would improve societal outcomes. It is absolutely crucial that the Government prioritises family incomes in the 2016 budget."

The Government’s 2016 budget must include a strategic approach for the urgent development of hundreds of new houses intended for low-income families. With more than 2000 households on the Ministry of Social Development’s "Priority A" waiting list for social housing, this will be just the beginning of what is needed to eliminate the current housing crisis. The $41 million promised to assist with emergency beds is merely a Band-aid, and real solutions needs to be prioritised. 

CPAG agrees that Housing New Zealand should be allowed to be exempt from taxes, freeing up around $207 million in the next financial year to fund a plan for around 500 new state houses. 

CPAG Housing and Law spokesperson Frank Hogan says, "It is crazy that the state-owned social housing agency pays tax when private investors use rental housing investment to avoid tax."

Child Poverty Action Group will present its analysis of what the budget holds for children and families at Post-Budget Breakfastevents held in six centres throughout New Zealand on May 27 and in Nelson on June 1. 

The analysis will be prepared by specialists from a range of disciplines, including education, health, economics, social services and housing. CPAG joins with families nationwide in hoping the Government delivers for children in this budget.