It is a shame that we have normalised child poverty

[category blog]

The need to do something about it is Now

Venkat Raman

New Zealand may be classified as the Best Country in the World to do business and may be scoring high in a number of sectors, but its performance in childcare is pathetic says Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft.

In his latest report released at the Childhood Studies Colloquium at Kelburn Campus of Victoria University in Wellington on Monday (November 13, 2017), he said that while most children do well, eat healthy food and live with their families in safe and warm homes, go to school and have time to play and be with their family and friends, there is a darker side that need attention.

Tough on Children

“For many children, growing up in New Zealand is really tough. Too many children in Aotearoa face unacceptable levels of abuse, neglect, violence and racial bias. Children are persistently the population group most likely to experience the sharp edge of poverty and hardship,” he said.

According to Judge Becroft, New Zealand children are often overlooked, seldom heard, unable to vote and rarely have a voice in decision making.

“Despite representing a quarter of the population, what children in New Zealand think about things – like their schooling, where they like to play, or what makes them feel safe – is often not considered when making rules or developing policies,” he said and urged New Zealanders to embrace children’s rights to ensure their overall well-being.

He said that the new Government has declared that ‘if we put child wellbeing at the heart of what we do, then the wellbeing of all New Zealanders will be lifted.’

The Labour Government is investing $2 billion over four years to tackle child poverty, including a payment to assist families raising young children, increasing the accommodation supplement and introducing 26 weeks paid parental leave, currently capped at 18 weeks.

“I want to see urgent progress in the area of ending child poverty. That is why we will be introducing measures and targets to ensure that our policies across government are making a difference to the lives of children,” Jacinda Ardern said soon after she was named Prime Minister on October 26, 2017.

UNICEF Definition

The Guardian, United Kingdom’s famous left-leaning newspaper quoted the definition of Child Poverty by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

It said that Child Poverty meant children living in households who earn less than 60% of the median national income, which is equivalent to $28,000 a year or $550 per week.

That Report, released about a year ago, was rejected by then Social Development Minister Anne Tolley as ‘rubbish.’

Our Leader under Viewlink takes this issue further.

Judge Becroft said that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child showed the ways in which the government can influence the well-being of children and young people.

“We have an opportunity now to cement our approach to child rights,” he said.

UN Convention Recommendations

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC) Monitoring Group has released a Report which suggests how New Zealand can do better in this area.

It made three recommendations that the Government can put into place immediately. They are (1) Make sure that children’s rights and needs are at the centre of policy and legislative reform. Identify where children’s rights are not being met, what needs to be done, who will do the work, when it will happen and how the work will be monitored (2) Allocate responsibility and resources to coordinate the implementation of the Children’s Convention across government (3) Ensure that children and young people’s views are taken into consideration in the development of legislation and policies.

Judge Becroft said that New Zealand should hear children’s voices.

Need for change

“We are very bad at seeking out their voices, listening to them, factoring them into our decision making and then reporting back to children the decisions made. If the practice was ingrained in government departments and community groups, there would be a significant change in the way policy is created here – for example in areas of education, health and housing, and in the way we respond to child poverty,” he said.

Upholding the Children’s Convention can improve the lives of children and young people living in the most difficult circumstances.

“We need to be much more positive about the Convention and what it can do for our children. Yes, 70% of our children do well, and some do outstandingly well. But 20% are struggling, and 10% do as badly, if not worse, than most comparable OECD countries. All our children would benefit significantly from the Convention if fully applied, but especially those whose needs are not being met,” Judge Becroft said.

From 2018, the UNCROC Monitoring Group will publish progress reports focusing on legal and policy developments for children and young people in New Zealand and how those developments align with the principles of the Children’s Convention.

About UNCROC Monitoring Group

The UNCROC Monitoring Group monitors the New Zealand Government’s implementation of the Children’s Convention, its Optional Protocols and the Government’s response to recommendations from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner convenes this group.

About the Children’s Commissioner

The Children’s Commissioner is an Independent Crown Entity, appointed by the Governor-General, carrying out responsibilities and functions set out in the Children’s Commissioner Act 2003.

The Children’s Commissioner’s activities must comply with the relevant provisions of the Public Finance Act 1989, Crown Entities Act 2004 and any other relevant legislation.

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Photo Caption:

Judge Andrew Becroft (Photo Courtesy: New Zealand School Trustees Association)

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