Child poverty should be addressed across party lines

Stand First: The ‘2017 Child Poverty Monitor’ released on December 7, 2017 indicated a drop of 1% to 2% across the measures of child poverty in New Zealand. Since then, there have been comments from agencies and organisations involved with children and childcare. These have appeared in our three web editions. The following articles carry a couple of them, first from Prime Minister Jacinda Arden.

Jacinda Ardern

A small drop in the number of children in low income households is welcome but the Government is committed to making significant progress on lifting children out of poverty.

Every child deserves the best start in life and to grow up and reach their potential free of the burden of poverty.

While it is encouraging to see the gains reported in the Child Poverty Monitor on December 7, 2017, there are still thousands of New Zealand children going without the basics they need.

Strong commitment

When I took on responsibility for child poverty reduction about seven weeks ago, I committed to making substantial progress on lifting children out of poverty.

I am ambitious for all our children. They are relying on the Government to make real change, and I am prepared to be held to account for achieving it.

Over the past six weeks, my ministers have been busy on a range of measures that will make a meaningful difference for children.

Legislative changes

The Families Package, and my Child Poverty Reduction Bill, will have a significant impact on families who are struggling to pay for the basics for their children and will ensure the public can track our progress.

Details of the Package will be announced this week.

It is targeted at those who need support the most, and will be much more effective at lifting children out of poverty than the Opposition’s plan.

My Poverty Reduction Bill is an opportunity to reach a long-term commitment to tackle child poverty and I am keen to work with the Opposition to make that commitment durable.

The Bill will set a range of measures that ensure that the progress we make towards meeting out targets is making a real difference.

Anton Blank

The latest Child Poverty Monitor shows a slight decrease in the numbers of New Zealand children living in poverty.

The signs are encouraging.

The new government’s commitment to putting child poverty targets and measures into legislation now makes the goal of reversing the increase in child poverty attainable.

Government action

The Child Poverty Monitor, which is a collaborative project between the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, J R McKenzie Trust and Otago University, can take credit for this decrease. They highlight the issue every year and push the issue into the public domain. As a result, the previous government increased benefit rates and made other adjustments.

Maori and Pacifika children

In 2011, a report from the advocacy coalition ‘Every Child Counts’ estimated that 60% of the children living below the poverty line were Maori and Pasifika.

The monitor shows some improvement for these groups, especially in education.

More Maori and Pasifika students are achieving NCEA Level 2.

But Maori in particular lag behind other groups.

Working with schools to lift Maori achievement is essential.

Research tells us repeatedly that teachers have low expectations of Maori learners, which has created an enduring pattern of under-achievement.

If we are serious about lifting Maori children out of poverty, we must focus on education and preparing young Maori for the workforce.

I commend the Child Poverty Monitor and its partners for their continued advocacy for New Zealand children, and the impressive results we are now seeing.

Anton Blank is a child advocate, writer and publisher based in Auckland. He has extensive experience in Maori development, social work, public health and literature. Picture Courtesy: Radio New Zealand.

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