Written By: - Date published: 8:30 am, October 29th, 2013 - 51 comments
Categories: benefits, bill english, brand key, business, child welfare, class war, health, housing, john key, national, paula bennett, poverty, slippery, uk politics, unemployment, welfare - Tags:
So, we now have a charity taking on the funding of the essential work on monitoring poverty, in the face of Paula Bennett, Bill English and John Key failing to do their job: a job that should be looking to ensure all Kiwis are adequately cared for and supported.
Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills has decided to publish his own annual stocktake of child poverty after the Government spurned his call to publish official measures and targets.
His first annual update will be published in December with analysis by experts at Otago University, edited by a private communications company and totally funded by a $525,000 grant from the philanthropic Wellington-based JR McKenzie Trust.
He said the project would not involve any taxpayers’ money and he did not need to get it signed off by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, who appointed him in 2011 for a five-year term.
This is a response to Bennett’s refusal to adequately measure and monitor poverty, while she continues to produce and support policies that demonise and harass beneficiaries so they are increasingly living in desperate circumstances.
Failing to produce a meaningful and accurate analysis of relevant statistics contributes to the demonising of beneficiaries.
Dr Wills’ expert group proposed five similar measures charting relative and absolute poverty, deprivation, persistent poverty and “severe” poverty.
Most of the data required for the measures is already published annually by the Social Development Ministry but Dr Wills said it needed to be interpreted for the public. He cited TV3’s The Vote in June, where he was challenged about a figure in the ministry’s report that 60 per cent of the median income for a family of two parents and two children, after housing costs, was $600 a week or about $30,000 a year.
The “expert group” points to the most urgent areas that need to be addressed:
The expert group said the three most pressing areas for further action were adopting child poverty reduction targets, reforming child tax credits to pay the same for young children as for teenagers, and more investment in housing and health through social housing, the rental housing “warrant of fitness”and free primary healthcare for children.
Meanwhile the Fabians in the UK have shown how similar circumstances are for those struggling on low incomes today, compared with 1913 Britain:
When the Fabian Women’s Group published ‘Round about a pound a week’ in 1913 it caused quite a stir. The pamphlet’s edge came not just from its forensic analysis of over forty working families’ budgets and its relentless account of their lives. Alongside this, author Maud Pember Reeves* coolly dismissed many of the myths that surrounded poverty then, as indeed they do today.
‘Round about a pound of week’ is acutely relevant to our times. The high rates of child mortality that originally motivated the study are thankfully a thing of the past, but low pay and precarious work are as familiar now as they were one hundred years ago. Similarly, the decisions low-income families made in 1913 between heating and eating are choices that are still being made today, and the link between overcrowded, damp housing and childhood illness remains intact.
One of the differences today in the UK is that most two parent families on low incomes now need both parents in paid work outside the home to survive financially.
That women’s paid work does make an important contribution to the family finances is clear – it is female employment that has protected many families from the worst effects of the recent recession, for example. However, the impact of women working on household budgets is muted for two reasons: women’s work remains lower paid than men’s and, as ‘The cost of a child’ research shows, much of the financial gain from female employment evaporates once childcare costs are paid.
Shame on Bennett, Key, English at al (NActs), for following the British government’s prescriptions for a return to a Dickensian approach to make life a living hell for those on low incomes. This is especially so for those in precarious circumstances in times of a shortage of secure jobs paying a living wage.
[Update] h/t mickysavage, who commented:
And here is a video showing the comprehension of and compassion for poverty by Paula Bennett …
Slightly off-topic, but there is a NZ connection. Maud Pember Reeves was married to W Pember Reeves, who as a member of the Seddon govt was shunted off to UK as Agent General – Seddon found WPR to be too leftish for his taste…