Marginal decline in child poverty means nothing

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Auckland, December 7, 2017

Julie Chapman

KidsCan hopes that the slight decline in child poverty rates in this year’s ‘Child Poverty Monitor’ would not stop Kiwis from keeping the significant issue of children living in hardship at the top of their minds.

The just released ‘2017 Child Poverty Monitor’ reveals a drop in 1% to 2% across the measures of child poverty in New Zealand.

Cause for reflection

While any drop in child poverty numbers should be celebrated, it does not mean New Zealanders should sit back and say, ‘Yes, job done.’

We should certainly be proud. But the results are just reflecting the concerted effort by charities like ours, the Child Poverty Action Group and government, to remove the barriers keeping people in a cycle of dependence.

This year alone, KidsCan has gone from supporting 600 schools to a milestone 700.

Long Wait List

That is an increase from 135,000 children to 168,000 who have access to our programmes providing the basics – food at school, clothing and health items.

There are still 2590 children on our waiting list. We have also seen an increased need for food with 30,000 children a week now being fed by KidsCan.

It makes sense. If you are reaching more people, the numbers of those in need will go down. It does not mean that we as a country have solved the problem. In fact, I am tremendously troubled by the extent of deprivation we’re witnessing in the communities we support.

In the 12 years of supporting children in need, this is as bad as I have seen.

We are now seeing families who have to share a towel between them, who share toothbrushes – one for the adults, one for the children. There is so little left over for necessities that parents are missing meals; so, their children do not go without. Plus, more and more families cannot afford basic hygiene items – no shampoo, no deodorant, no sanitary products.

Crucial times

KidsCan is asking New Zealanders to recognise what an incredibly crucial time this is as there are still thousands of Kiwi children in need of help.

About 135,000 children are living in households without seven or more of the basics they need, including shoes, clothing, and food.

What we do next will determine the future of this country. New Zealand is at crossroads. We either keep rallying in support and build on the momentum being achieved lifting the standard of living for all New Zealanders or head down another path – lose our collective resolve and wait for the Government’s social policies.

Delayed action

Government policy takes time to form and enact.

Any lasting long-term political change will not happen overnight and children need help today. That is why KidsCan has a challenge for New Zealanders.

Remember that change starts with one, and it is super-charged when one become many.

Right now, going into Christmas, there are 2590 children waiting for KidsCan’s help.

It takes just $15 a month to become a KidsCan monthly donor and make 2018 a year of new beginnings for the 19 schools waiting for help.

Julie Chapman is Founder and Chief Executive of KidsCan based in Auckland.

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