New report from MSD shows urgent need for Government action on poverty

A new report from Growing Up in New Zealand (GUINZ) data published this week by the Ministry of Social Development highlights the critical link between material hardship and emotional and physical health outcomes for children. It also highlights the greater risk mothers have of experiencing mental health issues, due to high levels of material hardship.

Key findings include:

  • Children experiencing material hardship were around three times more likely to have a high level of negative emotional reactions and twice as likely to have high levels of respiratory conditions/ear infections compared with children not in material hardship.
  • Mothers experiencing high levels of material hardship were around five times more likely to have moderate to severe anxiety compared with mothers with no material hardship, while mothers experiencing high levels of material hardship were four times more likely to have a moderate/high probability of depression compared with mothers with no material hardship.
  • Mothers and children experiencing high levels of material hardship were approximately three times more likely to be living in a damp house and twice as likely to be living in a crowded household compared with mothers and children with no material hardship.

Associate Professor Mike O’Brien, CPAG’s social security spokesperson, says the report highlights the importance of Government and government agencies developing a coordinated and comprehensive plan of action to improve the lives of the poorest children.

“Sole mothers with young children who are receiving a welfare benefit are amongst our worst-off families, and those least helped by the recent improvements to Working for Families tax credits,” says O’Brien.

“We agree that the Child Poverty Reduction Bill is a significant step forward for reducing the harms associated with poverty, but the mechanisms in place need to have a long-term and sustained, positive impact - and they must be set in place urgently.

“The impacts of hardship experienced by mothers and children in their early years of development can be long-lasting and have huge implications for whether they go on to have quality of life in their later years, including having good education and employment opportunities.

“It is critical that as a society, there are supports in place that prevent hardship from occurring, so that all children have the chance to thrive, and so that our unpaid caregivers are able to perform one of society’s most important roles to the best of their capabilities, supported adequately and unburdened by material hardship and poverty.”

“Too many children are being deprived of key resources and opportunities and as a country we must do much better to ensure that all children have the best possible childhood.”

CPAG is hopeful that the Government’s Budget 2019 will prioritise welfare reforms that will aid reducing poverty for those children and families most affected, and especially hopes that the Working for Families In-Work Tax Credit, worth at least $72.50 per week per family and only given to those who meet discriminatory paid work criteria, will be extended to all families with children, irrespective of their number of hours in paid work.

Alongside this, CPAG has also set out 17 practical recommendations to improve the lives of thousands of children whose families are reliant upon the welfare system to meet their basic needs.

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