The latest background papers

Privatisation and early childhood education in Aotearoa New Zealand (July 2020)

This paper, titled Privatisation and early childhood education in Aotearoa New Zealand by Caitlin Neuwelt-Kearns and Dr Jenny Ritchie, examines the impact of privatisation on early childhood education in Aotearoa New Zealand.

UPDATE: The authors have also used their report here to inform a peer-reviewed paper: Challenging the old normal: Privatisation in Aotearoa’s early childhood care and education sector. by Caitlin Neuwelt-Kearns and Jenny Ritchie. Early Education Journal 66 (2020): 61-68

Access to quality early childhood education (ECE) is crucial for children, families, and society at large. ECE services can provide foundational learning experiences for children, but also provide emotional and parenting support for families. In particular, the gains from attending quality ECE services are greatest among children from low-income households. For this reason, ECE has the potential to act as an ‘equaliser’, and a vehicle for mitigating child poverty in Aotearoa. However, attendance at an ECE service is not universally beneficial for all children. It is imperative that the sector is providing good quality and culturally appropriate services, particularly as children are spending increasingly more time in care. Poor quality ECE can have a detrimental impact on a child’s wellbeing, and in some cases may be worse than attending no early learning service at all. Reports of bad treatment from other children, or from teachers themselves, including physical and verbal abuse, have made headlines in recent years and illustrate a sector under significant stress.

In this report, we highlight some of the challenges within the sector at present, arguing that Covid-19 has presented an opportunity for long-needed reform. With occupancy rates expected to decrease in the face of an economic downturn and rising unemployment, now is a prime opportunity for reconsidering the trajectory of the sector prior to Covid-19, and its future.

A scenario for changes in child poverty rates from the COVID-19 recession (July 2020)

This paper, titled A scenario for changes in child poverty rates from the COVID-19 recession offers a scenario of possible numbers of children living in relative income poverty as a result of the expected COVID-19 recession. The purpose for creating this scenario is to gain some appreciation of the possible impacts of this recession on the wellbeing of New Zealand’s children. As a scenario it is just an assessment of what might plausibly happen and not a forecast. There are in fact huge uncertainties around the extend of the COVID-19 recession and the nature of the subsequent recovery. These uncertainties as well as the duty of care we have for our children anyway make it important to be mindful that the impacts of recessions do not fall evenly or fairly. As a consequence, we need to plan for responses which minimise negative impacts on children. To help us do that we need some understanding of the extent of the challenge we are facing around who New Zealand’s poorest children are and how many they are. This scenario is an attempt at providing some of this understanding.

Family tax credits: Do children get the support in New Zealand that they would get in Australia? (June, 2020)

This paper, titled, Family tax credits: Do children get the support in New Zealand that they would get in Australia? by CPAG researchers Caitlin Neuwelt-Kearns and Associate Professor Susan St John, examines how Australia and New Zealand use targeted or abating child tax credits as the dominant mechanism to recognise that households with children have additional costs and this backgrounder compares their generosity and operation.  

No two international contexts are directly comparable, and indeed Australia has a significantly different tax system to that in New Zealand.  The PAYE rate structure is much more progressive with a zero first band of $20,000 of income and a 10% GST that exempts many necessities.  Even with these advantages for low income people, Australia’s tax credits specifically for the support of children are significantly more generous. New Zealand’s family tax credit system at present is overly complex and unfairly penalises children in the poorest households. 

While other income support mechanisms such as paid parental leave are important in shaping family and child wellbeing, this backgrounder focuses specifically on the tax credits for children paid to the principal caregiver.

Paper examining sufficiency of Government's COVID-19 for people on benefits (May 2020)

This paper, titled: “The effects of 2020-21 income support changes on After Housing Costs (AHC) incomes for representative households receiving benefits” examines if the Government's COVID-19 package is sufficient to lift families out of poverty who are currently receiving benefits. 

Using a key government measure of child poverty, the 50 per cent after housing costs median income,* Child Poverty Action Group has examined whether the latest policies released as part of the Government's COVID-19 package, will keep families on core benefits at or above this line in 2020/2021.   

A quick guide to the In-Work Tax Credit 

This quick guide explains the In-Work Tax Credit. What it is, who gets it, how it fails in its objectives, and what we can do to fix it. 

We all want to see New Zealand children develop and thrive, free from the lifelong effects of poverty. There is no quick fix - but there is one thing this government could do today to help lift thousands of New Zealand children from the deepest poverty. With a simple tweak to an outdated, discriminatory policy, they could make the In-Work Tax Credit available to the kids who need it most of all.

Read the quick guide here (and check out a more in-depth briefing paper here). 

Briefing on reform of the In-Work Tax Credit

A briefing paper prepared for CPAG by Susan St John (February 2020)

CPAG argues reform of the In-Work Tax Credit (in the context of needed reform to the whole of Working For Families) is well overdue. The poor design of these policies has entrenched poverty for the worst-off children. This briefing shows how the In-Work Tax Credit fails both objectives of reducing child poverty and incentivising paid work. The logical and cost-effective first step to alleviate the worst child poverty is to join the In-Work Tax Credit to the first child Family Tax Credit. This will markedly boost those families with the lowest incomes. 

Read the full briefing paper here