No New Zealand child should grow up in poverty
No New Zealand child should grow up in poverty. As a society we could choose to make this a reality, says Child Poverty Action Group.
Child Poverty Action Group's flagship policy publication Our Children, Our Choice: Priorities for Policy, launched today, calls for cross party political agreement to underpin an action plan to eliminate child poverty in New Zealand.
While the 2013 figures show a small improvement on some measures of child poverty, there are still 30,000 more children than previously thought living under the lowest 50% poverty line. The depth of child poverty has been seriously unrecognised, in particular the 205,000 children below the 50% poverty line who are likely to experience severe hardship.
Childhood poverty has lifelong consequences on health, education, and social and economic participation. CPAG believes child poverty is a moral and ethical issue, and any real and sustained change to our unacceptable child poverty rates must be underpinned by a cross-party agreement.
CPAG's economics spokesperson, Associate Professor Susan St John says, "John Key says he is confident his government has done all it can for child poverty, yet community groups are overwhelmed by the needs they see every day. To make it worse, Government has even implemented punitive sanctions for some beneficiaries with children."
Benefits are falling further behind normal living standards in society because they are adjusted for prices only. New Zealand Superannuation has a link to average wages which has protected living standards for elderly people. Some parts of Working for Families support are not properly adjusted on a regular basis, even for prices.
"Neither the In Work Tax Credit, worth $60 a week, nor the Parental Tax Credit for newborns, worth $150 a week for the first eight weeks, is available to the poorest children. This money is vital to lift help children out of poverty and must be extended to the poorest and properly adjusted for inflation as the first step," says St John. "At a cost of $450-600m, it would be a cost effective way to assist struggling families. Now is certainly NOT the time to talk about income tax cuts."
Health spokesperson Professor Innes Asher says, "Child Poverty Action Group would like to see a firm indication from political leaders that they are committed to the steps needed to give all children the opportunity for good health and well-being so they can reach their potential. We could protect our children from hardship as we protect our elderly. These are our children, they are our future, this is our choice."
Our Children, Our Choice brings together five policy papers released by CPAG in the lead up to the election: on health, early childhood care and education, compulsory schooling, housing and household incomes. Each paper gives an overview of the current situation for the poorest children in New Zealand and makes key recommendations on policies to reduce child poverty and mitigate its effects.
Download the full report here Our Children, Our Choice: Priorities for Policy