Articles archive

As well as producing high quality independant research, CPAG provides shorter peices of commentary on issues related to child poverty. Many of these are also published in print media and online.

“Child poverty and health in Aotearoa – the way forward.” (2016)

Innes Asher, Psychology Aotearoa, Vol 8 (2) Whiringa-ā-rangi/November 2016 pp 80-84, Published by the New Zealand Psychological Society

Reflections on the Budget 2015 Child Hardship Package (2015)

The 2015 Budget contained benefit rate increases forbeneficiaries with children and some minor adjustmentsto work-based child-related tax credits. The significance ofthese increases when other policies are taken into accountsuggests a reshuffling of money in which much of thedistributional effect will be minimal and offset. For childrenit resembles the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff ratherthan a structural review of child-related income policiesthat might be reformist, preventative and inclusive. The costto society is more complexity in the benefit system and acementing in of reliance on work-related child tax credits.

Child Poverty Action Group v Attorney General - what did we gain? (2014) 

Frances Joychild (QC)

In June 2013 Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) decided not to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal declining CPAG’s appeal under s5 NZBORA (though upholding it under s 19). This ended nine years of litigation by CPAG challenging the In Work Tax Credit ($60 per week to primary caregiver for first 3 children and $15 per week for each child after that) which was a child poverty alleviation measure that excluded parents on income tested benefits from receiving it.  Frances Joychild QC who was counsel for CPAG for the last 4 years (along with Jenny Ryan from the Office of Human Rights Proceedings) spoke at a CPAG 2013 end of year gathering about what CPAG had gained from the litigation -  here is what she said.

Preventing, Mitigating or Solving Child Income Poverty?  (2013)

In March 2012, the Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty (EAG) was established by the Children’s Commissioner to make recommendations that, if not fully ‘solving’ child poverty, would realistically reduce and mitigate its effects.  The advice was to inform the Ministerial Committee on Poverty, whose focus was specifically on tangible gains ‘getting value for money in a tight economic climate.  Assoc Prof Susan St John takes a closer look at the EAG's final report in the May Issue of Policy Quarterly.  Read the full article here.


Tax break penalises poorest kids (2013)

Assoc Prof Nikki Turner in the Dominion Post, 28 May 2013. We have universal, non-judgmental support for our elderly. Policies for our children are highly targeted and discriminatory. This is our choice as a country, despite the fact it flies in the face of all logic when the greatest gains long term are likely to be from investment in the early years. The Child Poverty Action Group has been pursuing the issue of discrimination against our poorest children since 2008.  Read the full article here.


Lets have policies for all children (2013)

Assoc Prof Susan St John in The New Zealand Herald, 17 March 2013.  It's time business leaders took Govt to task over programmes that fail to address problem of child poverty.It may have been possible some time ago to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the prevalence of child poverty in New Zealand. That time has well and truly past. Today, many new voices are adding to the demand that "something be done". Recently, on this page Allan Freeth took a step outside the corporate mould and challenged business leaders to see that "their behaviour suggests that they do not care enough about our youth and children". Such business leaders should be holding the Government to account for failing to ensure that policies to address child poverty are actually working.  Read the full article here.

Dopey or what? (2012)

In this article CPAG’s Economics Spokesperson Susan St John comments on Prime Minister John Key calling the suggestion for a universal child benefit by the Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Child Poverty as dopey.  She illustrates what is ‘dopey’ is the way in which our family assistance policies are currently structured.

Parents or workers? (2011)

By Alan Johnson It is a great shame that the interests of children have not been at the centre of New Zealand’s family focused policies. This failure to place children at the centre is in part the result of our present policy paradigm which sees parents primarily as employed or unemployed workers rather than as the carers and nurturers of our greatest treasure – our children.


The parallel universe of the Welfare Working Group (2011)

By Donna Wynd and Associate Professor Susan St John. “One of the most unenlightened work ever to emerge from a government-funded taskforce” The Welfare Working Group’s final report, Reducing Long Term Benefit Dependency, 2011, is arguably one of the most unenlightened pieces of work ever to emerge from a government-funded taskforce. Most submissions were ignored, revealing that much of the consultation process was simply a public relations exercise.


Punitive policies punishing families (2011)

By Associate Professor Susan St John. Our welfare and tax credit policies for supporting low income families are deeply contradictory and out of step with the nature of relationships and the labour market in the 21st century.


Child poverty and child rights meet active citizenship (2011)

By Associate Professor Mike O'Brien & Tapio Salonen. Children’s rights and active citizenship have been significant policy emphases and developments in recent years but the relationship between the two has not been actively explored in relation to the implications for child poverty. Recent policy developments in New Zealand and Sweden are drawn on here to explore this relationship. The article argues that an emphasis on active citizenship does not lead to improvement of rights for all children. Too many children are left in poverty because active citizenship is focused on the lives of adults, not the needs and rights of children. Advancing children’s rights requires attention to the position of all children, not just those who live in households where the adults meet active citizenship requirements.

The dream is over but has the nightmare just begun?  (2010)

Susan St John asks Is this reform designed to help the people who somehow ‘choose’ to live at the poverty line become socially included, or is it to save money and salve moral indignation? John Key says the package is about ‘improving outcomes for beneficiaries’ but saving costs is clearly the main aim. 


Comment on Prime Minister's Statement (2010)

Reminiscent of the welfare attacks of the early 1990s, there is a disturbing lack of empathy for the hardship endured by the people who cannot work or who can only work part-time while on a benefit. Susan St John comments on the 2010 Prime Minister's Statement.


Level of inequality just not acceptable (2010)

"New Zealand's after-tax distribution is one of the most unequal in the OECD, and child poverty rates are a national disgrace." Associate Professor Susan St John writes about the shortcomings of the report of the Tax Working Group. 


Lessons from the Tax Working Group (2010)

New Zealand once enjoyed a reputation in tax as an international leader. As the Tax Working Group (TWG) has explained, we have lost that edge. It is clear that the tax system falls woefully short on the standard criteria of equity, efficiency and administrative simplicity.  Susan St John comments.

Assessing the charitable model (2009)

With almost no critical analysis, the acceptance of the Americanisation of the New Zealand way of life continues with the Prime Minster John Key’s recent endorsement of the US charitable model.   


Why do we need yet another study to tell us the obvious? (2009)

A significant grant of $810,000 over two years has recently been made by the Health Research Council to support research which will investigate the effects of providing breakfasts to children on their learning, academic performance, nutrition, and health.  Evidence is not the issue here given the benefits of breakfast for children.  Nor is the cost. The issue is government unwillingness to acknowledge hunger in New Zealand, and to deal with it directly and comprehensively.  


National Standards: Supporting Children's Learning or Tolley's Folly?  (2009)

Next week the government begins nationwide public consultation around its controversial plans to introduce National Standards into all primary and intermediate schools from 2010. Depending on the form they take and the way they are used, National Standards could be a very damaging development for New Zealand or they could be more useful. The consultation will certainly warrant attention by all concerned with the wellbeing of New Zealand's children and its future prosperity. 


Closing the door to hope (2008)

No wonder John Key could honestly say, announcing his party’s welfare policy, that the widow’s benefit “gave my mother enough security to keep us together and keep us focused on a time when things would improve. By having our most basic needs covered as a family, we were able to hold on to that most precious human emotion – hope.”  Letter from Eslewhere by Dr Anne Else


Social Stigma makes parenting that much harder (2008)

Sole parents are often identified as an economic and social "problem" in political debate and by the media. But these stereotypes themselves affect social attitudes and undermine the mental and emotional well-being of sole parents and their families. Christine Todd


Children still left behind despite $4.5 billion spend (2008)

Susan St John laments over Working for Families. Since 2005 the Government has poured an extra $4.5 billion into Working for Families. Without that injection into the lower and middle deciles of the income distribution, measured child poverty would have continued to rise and there would have been unimaginable distress in communities up and down New Zealand. 


Reaping the rewards of wholesale indifference (2008)

The background story to Randwick Park, and indeed to many parts of South Auckland, is one of indifference. Personal indifference, official indifference and political indifference. Alan Johnson


Landmark legal case challenges discriminatory In-Work Tax Credit (2008)

By 2006, the incomes of New Zealand’s poorest families had been falling relative to average incomes for many years.  In April that year the In-Work Payment was introduced.  This extra payment was desperately needed by all children in low-income families, but denied to the poorest children where parents did not work the necessary hours.  

Violence against children: Domestic violence and child homicide in New Zealand (2007)

This discussion paper outlines reasons to be wary of over-simplification of domestic violence issues in the aftermath of the death of the Kahui twins. For CPAG and other child centred groups the issues are complex and difficult. The focus, though, must be the children in households under financial and social stress. Right now we are confronted with the deaths of two babies at the hands of those closest to them, and the perpetrators must be held to account. However, we have a duty to consider this violence in the wider context of social inequality, and the fragmentation of family and whanau, and to address it in an intelligent and inclusive manner. Unless and until we are all prepared to do just this the random and brutal deaths of our most vulnerable children will continue. 


Education's 'inconvenient truth': persistent middle class advantage (2007)

Professor Martin Thrupp gives his inaugural lecture. Inaugural lectures are all about celebrating scholarship but their content, of course, is not necessarily celebratory. Indeed if there is anything to be celebrated about my work to date, it is probably a stubborn refusal to be satisfied with education policy, practice and research while we have such an unequal society and important political pressures towards greater inequality.


The Budget Speech I hope to hear (2007)

Dr Susan St John gives the Budget Speech she would like to hear in 2007. Starting with: The expected cash deficit of $1.5 billion for this year has become a $2 billion cash surplus. In light of the sound fiscal position I am delighted to deliver further on core Labour policy objectives of social inclusion and investment in social capital and set the direction for the next decade of prosperity for all New Zealanders.  


Unicef Report Card on Child Wellbeing (2007)

Dr Nikki Turner writes on the effects on health of decades of neglect of New Zealand children. The new UNICEF Report Card on child well-being in the OECD countries tells an old story: NZ continues to perform poorly on many of our child well-being indicators when compared to other Western countries.   


John Key: The real Kiwi Way, or the 1990s in drag? (2007)

Comment on the 2007 State of the Nation Speech. John Key’s State of the Nation speech was the first time a National politician has explicitly acknowledged the growing gap between the haves and have-nots in Aotearoa New Zealand. Taking Labour on on their own turf, it exposed Labour’s  “now you see it, now you don’t” line on poverty as the spin that it is. Certainly no-one who works in a budget advisory centre or foodbank believes the government’s Working for Families package has solved the poverty problem, and it was refreshing to hear their concerns aired by such a high profile politician. 


Working for Families (2007)

Phil O’Reilly (5th April, NZ Herald) is right, Working for Families is a pretty big deal. It represents a long-overdue redistribution worth 1.5 billion dollars per annum. While government is to be congratulated on this package, without it they would clearly be facing severe, and politically unpalatable social distress among many struggling low and middle income families. 


KiwiSaver or KiwiScammer - Helping (some) New Zealanders retire richer? (2007)

Donna Wynd examines the Kiwi Saver proposal and asks who will it really benefit.  If we really do need investment and so-called economic transformation, then we should be spending the Kiwisaver millions on at-risk children in low-income households, not subsidising the retirement savings of the better-off. Feed our kids properly, educate them and make sure they’re healthy. That is the best investment we can make in our future.  

The MSD 2004 living standards report. New Zealand’s wake up call (2006)

The Economic Living Standards Index (ELSI) for 2004 should be New Zealand’s ‘shock horror’ wake-up call. Forget about ‘social inclusion’ and ‘opportunities for all’.  Such Third Way rhetoric is a hollow reminder of all the good Labour promised but failed to deliver. It expected that the rising tide of economic prosperity would lift all boats. Instead, more families are sinking without a life raft.   


Child poverty and family incomes policy in New Zealand (2006)

Recent studies show that poverty and poor health outcomes are clearly correlated. Without sustained intervention and prioritising the goal of reducing child poverty over work incentives, children unfortunate enough to be in benefit dependent families will continue to experience poor health outcomes, higher morbidity, lower life expectancy, more school transience and poorer educational achievement. While recent improvements in family income support measures will have a real impact on the working poor, stigmatising and excluding those on benefits cannot be in the long-term interests of society. 


A bill the poor will pay for (2006)

Work, work and more work: what ever happened to social security? Most people don't know it, but social security is undergoing significant changes. These could affect any of us, if we were suddenly to become sick or disabled, a sole parent, or if the economy was to force employers to shed large numbers of employees.


Inflation trends, where is our money going? (2006)

While lower fuel costs are welcome, increases in other household costs are likely to cancel any benefits that might accrue to low wage and beneficiary households whose incomes are rising only slowly, if at all. Perhaps this explains why our foodbanks continue to do such good business. Beneficiary and low income households are due to get another $10 per child per week on 1st April this year. This will help recover some of the lost ground but won’t make much of a dent in child poverty.


Children fall by the wayside (2006)

The report from Unicef on child wellbeing in rich countries tells an old story - a story of damage from decades of neglect of New Zealand's youngest citizens. International comparisons are useful contributions to a debate about the status of our children. The report makes two crucial points. First, there is no obvious relationship between gross domestic product - relative to population - and child wellbeing. Second, countries poorer than our own do better by their children. 


Why Working for Families is not working for poor families (2006)

It was a shock that it was a Labour Government that axed Special Benefit – New Zealand’s backstop welfare safety net. Labour, with strong community support, fought the then National Government’s attempt to do this in 1994. In the 1990s Labour recognised the crucial role Special Benefit played in the welfare system. Now, by stealth Labour too has begun to attack New Zealand’s poorest families, and has instituted fundamental welfare reform with no public debate.


Child Poverty Worsens (2006)

After years of neglect the 2004 Working for Families budget promising over an extra billion dollars a year by 2007 sounded like very good news for low income families.  And so it was, except that the poorest children were largely left out.  More was to come in the pre-election spend-up that sees a further $500m for low-income families, but shockingly the cupboard is once more bare for the poorest children in beneficiary families. 


Don't ignore the poorest children (2005)

The universal principle is firmly in place for those over 65. Why should New Zealand treat the young so differently?  


Impacts of the dismal decade still being felt (2005)

Until recently children had been ignored by macro-economic policymakers for 25 years, despite bearing the brunt of those policies.  They and their caregivers - mostly women - were disproportionately affected by policies which dictated self-reliance and independence from the state as primary virtues.