Child Poverty and Social Injustice seminar in Wellington, 21 Sept

Despite a common urge to cling to the ideology of New Zealand as an egalitarian society, we are not all treated equally in this land of abundance and flourishing economy. Our modern systems exist upon a vision that being ‘in paid work’ is the only solution to individual financial success, and all must meet these imagined social expectations at all costs. Despite how unrelentingly hard this may be for some, and whether the work conditions or hours match the needs of children and families.

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says it is time we discussed the reasons behind this, and the grave concerns that arise because of it. In particular our treatment of beneficiary sole parents is characterised by punitive and controlling welfare rules, while at the other end of the spectrum, wealthy tax evaders are treated much less harshly.

On Wednesday 21 September CPAG Wellington welcome attendance by all concerned to Child Poverty and Social Justice: Not all are equal in NZ, a seminar that will provide the opportunity to table the issue of systematic inequality in New Zealand. Featuring guest speakers - barrister and journalist Catriona MacLennan, author of CPAG report Kathryn’s Story and Victoria University Associate Professor in taxation, Dr Lisa Marriott, who has researched extensively the issue of penalties for white collar tax evasion in contrast to welfare fraud.

At this event Catriona MacLennan will discuss her report Kathryn’s Story, which tells the life of Kathryn, a woman who suffered physical and sexual abuse in childhood, and later the tragedy of her son being killed by her partner. Kathryn was prosecuted and convicted of benefit fraud and sent to jail, and while she was in prison her children suffered abuse. Kathryn has been pursued by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) for 15 years for a debt of over $117,000, despite being chronically ill and clearly unable to repay it. To this day, Kathryn maintains her innocence, while the MSD has spent over $100,000 on her case, and has recovered less than $2000.

Dr Lisa Marriott will report on research findings showing that individuals in New Zealand are likely to receive different treatments in the justice system depending on whether their crime is ‘white-collar’ or ‘blue-collar’, and the contrasting treatment of ‘relationships’ where there is tax fraud and welfare fraud. Dr Marriott’s presentation will also report on a range of other situations where individuals who have fewer resources will be treated more harshly than those who have greater resources.

A society that is punitive towards the poor is not a society we want for our most vulnerable children. CPAG says changes need to be made in the Social Security Legislation Rewrite Bill currently before Parliament to improve our treatment of beneficiary mothers and reduce harmful impacts on children.

For more information about the event, which will take place from 5:30pm to 7pm at Victoria University’s Pipitea campus, please follow this link.