The Herald on Sunday is reporting today on some worrying trends in child poverty in Aotearoa.
The Government has been very careful not to properly measure the problem. The formerly proud to be a westie Minister Paula Bennett has joked in Parliament about how there is not an official measure for child poverty.
The new Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills could see that the failure to properly measure such an important statistic was crazy. To show how bizarre the Government’s approach to the issue is his application for funding of research into the area was declined. So he did something unusual. He approached a private trust for funding so that the research could be completed. And the results are due out tomorrow and it sounds like they will be deeply concerning.
As stated in the Herald on Sunday editorial this morning:
A cynic might suggest it sometimes suits the Government to have no reliable measure of the problems facing the nation. If ministers can’t quantify a problem, then neither can their opponents.
Dr Russell Wills, Bennett’s appointment as Children’s Commissioner, was refused permission to measure and monitor child poverty and its impact on health and social wellbeing. So, displaying admirable enterprise for someone on the public payroll, he bypassed the Government and went to the charitable JR McKenzie Trust for $525,000 funding for the project.
The result, to be published tomorrow, is a truly independent measure of this blight on New Zealand society.
The first Child Poverty Monitor will graphically illustrate how children are spending longer periods in severe deprivation than previously recognised. The outcomes include a 12 per cent upturn in hospital admissions for children’s illnesses that are associated with poverty and over-crowding.
In a related article the HOS reported on a shocking increase in the number of children being admitted to Hospital with third world diseases. The article states:
Wills’ report is expected to reveal a 12 per cent rise from 2007 to 2011 in hospital admissions for poverty-related illnesses such as acute bronchiolitis, gastroenteritis, asthma, acute upper respiratory infections and skin infections.
Most New Zealanders will find the numbers of children affected by disease shocking … but for those of us working clinically with families in poverty it is not surprising.”Wills also works as a paediatrician in Hawke’s Bay. He said hospital wards were now full of poor, sick children every month of the year – not just in winter. There was no longer a “summer lull” in diseases.
“I do see parents who have made bad choices but most families on the hospital wards with sick children are spending their very small income very carefully,” he said. “You don’t get 10 to 12 people living in a two-bedroom house because they want to.” The Government lacked “a plan” to reduce child poverty.
In the same article Kevin Hague commented on the recommendation of the Public Health Advisory Committee for the Government to set targets to reduce child poverty made in 2009.
Nothing has happened to that recommendation. They don’t want to look bad.”
And in a further article the HOS reported on a computer glitch that has meant the data that the Government has been collecting has been compromised and has underreported child abuse notifications. The computer programme apparently did not take into account cases for a particular month where the data was entered more than 2 days after the end of the month.
The combined effect is distressing. The Government is refusing to measure some data and the data that it does collect has been compromised. And meantime more and more kids are showing signs of living in third world conditions in Aotearoa while Bennett and co refuse to accept there is a problem.
Paula Bennett and the entire National Government should be hanging their heads in shame.
The final word should be left to the writer of the excellent editorial in today’s HOS.
Child poverty should not exist in this country. Blaming parents is pointless. No child should be left under-nourished or shivering in an uninsulated house. No child should suffer the preventable diseases of poverty. New Zealand can afford to rescue its most vulnerable citizens from neglect and abuse.
The Children’s Commissioner is right to give us this reality check for Christmas.