Plea for a cross-party commitment to ending child poverty

We have the figures: we know that 28% of children living in Aotearoa are experiencing the effects of some form of income poverty - they are living in families who have incomes that are less than 60% of the average median after housing costs.

We know that eight percent, or 90,000 children are suffering from severe deprivation, because they go without more than nine essential basic items. They are missing out on a nutritious diet, shoes for school, warmth in winter, a doctor’s appointment when ill.

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says that it's time we stopped quibbling over who's to blame for this blight on our nation, and recognise the problem for what it is: one that has systemic roots, and one in dire need of fixing. One that New Zealand is fortunate enough to be able to fix.

Frank Hogan, CPAG spokesperson for housing and children’s rights says that, “Instead of pointing the finger at so-called poor parenting we have to consider what caused the poverty, and dig deep for a real, meaningful solution.

“People aren’t poor because they want to be. Many face the battle of cyclic poverty for which our system must be accountable to remedy.

“Many parents simply cannot keep up with the rising housing costs. Drug and alcohol dependency are just some of the devastating effects poverty can have, and parents aren’t immune.

 “We need a cross-party agreement to end child poverty by addressing the causative issues behind what is being seen as neglect and abuse of children. We have a host of opportunities to bridge the need - within our social security system, our family tax credit system, within our public healthcare system, and within the education system. We should be regulating rents so that they are fair and making homes safe and able to be warmed efficiently.

“Furthermore, the Ministry of Social Development should expand its criteria for support for all vulnerable children including those who are suffering the effects of poverty.”

CPAG supports Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft’s call for a comprehensive plan and a target to reduce child poverty in New Zealand. As Judge Becroft pointed out, many children who suffer material hardship come from loving, stable, safe family environments: “But it is still a high risk environment.” Despite the efforts of their parents, children who suffer the effects of poverty are at risk of vulnerability and poor outcomes.

“But right now we are treading dangerous waters, wherein poverty is becoming normalised,” says Frank Hogan.

“We must not accept this level of need as the norm. It’s time that our Government and other parties implement a robust plan to affect the outcomes for ALL vulnerable children in a positive way.”