What will help our poorest children most, right now?
Government needs to hear loudly and strongly that it is the right of all low income children to benefit from tax-funded child payments to alleviate child poverty.
The tragedy is that the poorest children in New Zealand live in families without enough money and that much of this has been by deliberate choice of simply appallingly designed policy for family incomes support.
The time is over for us to continue to fudge the issue by toying with long term reform issues such as universal child benefits, basic incomes and living wage campaigns. All these things have their place in ongoing debates about how the system can be reformed but government is hearing some confused messages about what it should do right now.
The danger is that it will do very little.
Over 230,000 children in low income families do not benefit from the full Working for Families package. Some are in families supported by wage income but their parents don’t get enough hours every week to qualify fpr important payments.
The child payment (called the IWTC) of at least $60 a week per family can disappear when the family falls on hard times or just can’t work enough hours or need a benefit. Other benefits such as the parental tax credit and the minimum family tax credit compound the unfairness
It is based on the deserving and undeserving distinction that should have no place in child assistance policies that are supposed to reduce child poverty and are paid for through our taxes.
Not only is this very bad for the children, the IWTC is a terrible work incentive and doesn’t work in casualised labour markets.
CPAG would encourage other groups to also give a clear message that does not allow the government to sidestep the obvious policy to begin to impact on the worst child poverty.
After we fix this problem and begin to treat all low income children the same for tax-funded support , we then need to begin to improve the overall incomes policy for those families who still struggle even though they are in full time work. Child poverty requires a long-term, sustained set of policies and programmes; let’s begin with the most disadvantaged and then move forward.