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Poverty Watch 32

Written By: - Date published: 9:02 am, May 25th, 2013 - 28 comments
Categories: national, poverty - Tags:

In Poverty Watch this week our final look at the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCCC) 2012 report “Child Poverty in New Zealand evidence for action“. Chapter 4 set out priority recommendations, Chapter 5 was the full list. The final Chapter 6 is short, I’m going to quote it in full because every word is worth reading:

6 Conclusion

New Zealand can be a great place for children – where all children can enjoy their rights, achieve their full potential and participate as equal members of our society. But to achieve this goal we must address the problem of child poverty. Moreover, unless a concerted effort is made now to reduce child poverty, the costs that it imposes today, both social and economic, are likely to be magnified in generations to come. Alleviating child poverty will also contribute to the success of other policy priorities, including reducing child abuse, increasing educational achievement, improving skills and raising productivity.

We have examined the available evidence to identify the most effective and efficient policies to reduce child poverty and mitigate its effects. From this it is clear that there is no magic answer or single solution to achieve our desired outcomes. But it is equally clear that child poverty can be substantially reduced.

Various promising government programmes and community-based initiatives are already in place to assist children living in poverty. However, there is no overarching strategy to co-ordinate these activities or monitor their effectiveness. And there are glaring gaps: for example, we urgently need a comprehensive housing strategy. Our first recommendation is that we need legislation to ensure that child poverty is properly measured and that ambitious, yet realistic, targets are set to reduce child poverty. A robust policy framework specified in legislation will help ensure sustained governmental action and leadership.

Child poverty is a complex social problem with multiple causes and consequences. For this reason, we need multiple solutions. We have, therefore, recommended a broad package of proposals that we believe will have the greatest effect. These include both practical recommendations that, in the short-term will assist children who are living in poverty today, and more ambitious long-term recommendations that will substantially reduce child poverty rates in the future.

It is clear that money matters. If material deprivation is to be minimised, families require a stable and adequate income. Children should not have to go to school hungry or live in cold, damp homes. Government policy choices also matter. The safety net provided by our system of income support (including tax credits) significantly affects the quality of family life. In our view, the income support system needs reform so that it has a greater focus on children. The changes we have proposed will not only reduce the level of material deprivation experienced by children in low-income families, but are also likely to enhance their educational attainment, thereby helping to break the intergenerational transmission of poverty.

The available evidence overwhelmingly supports greater investment in the early years of a child’s life. Supporting children living in poverty, for example through maternity and child health services and early childhood education, is investing in our future prosperity. We readily acknowledge that some of our proposals will entail significant fiscal costs, but we firmly believe that evidence-informed investments now can save money in the longer term. Moreover, the costs of doing nothing are high.

Children deserve the best possible start in life. The government has an important leadership role and must ensure that its policy levers are working in the best interests of our children and our most vulnerable families. But there are also important roles for business, non-government service providers, local communities and families. We fully support the many activities already underway in helping to alleviate child poverty, and urge everyone to consider how they can make a difference for children in their neighbourhoods and communities.

Finally, to improve the circumstances of our most deprived children we must be willing to experiment and implement innovative policy approaches, including pilots and small-scale initiatives from which we can learn more about what works – especially for the families who face the most difficult challenges. This requires boldness, imagination and a commitment to investing in proper, robust evaluation. Only in this way can we build a sound evidence base that is relevant to solving child poverty in New Zealand’s distinctive social, cultural and economic context.

Children do not choose to be poor. They do not select their parents. Even though they are citizens, they lack a democratic voice and the choices available to adults. Society has a responsibility to protect the powerless and vulnerable. Children, above all, deserve our collective protection and best endeavours.

… The report is just an icebreaker for hard conversation … addressing child poverty will be a long haul journey and doesn’t end in December.

A formal government response to this report is due at some point – a topic for a future edition of Poverty Watch.

In current news this week, Amnesty International shames our government for its lack of action on child poverty:

Child poverty ‘a stain on NZ’s human rights record’

The Government has been slammed for its track record on child poverty and violence against women following a critical report from an international human rights watchdog.

The Amnesty International Annual Report on the state of the world’s human rights highlighted New Zealand’s high levels of child poverty, violence against women and a proposed law affecting asylum-seekers.

Auckland Action Against Poverty spokeswoman Sarah Thompson said the report’s findings came as no surprise. “It’s yet another report in a long line that highlights ongoing child poverty in New Zealand,” she said.

“That child poverty remains high is of no surprise when our Government continues to ignore research-based solutions, choosing instead to punish the poor via welfare reforms which do nothing but intimidate, control and sanction beneficiaries.”

Child Poverty Action Group co-director Mike O’Brien said there had been no significant Government response to the issue of child poverty. He said last week’s Budget had partly addressed some of the issues, such as home insulation and rheumatic fever, but there needed to be a broad and sustained response across health, education, housing and incomes.

See also:
NZ slammed over poverty, asylum bill
NZ risks breaching human rights – Amnesty
Amnesty International report slams New Zealand

The world is watching. After hyping a response to poverty in the budget, then failing to deliver, we will all be waiting to see what the government delivers in its response to the OCC report.

Here’s the standard footnote. Poverty (and inequality) were falling (albeit too slowly) under the last Labour government.   Now they are on the rise again, in fact a Waikato University professor says that poverty is our biggest growth industry.

Before the last election Labour called for a cross party working group on poverty. Key turned the offer down.  Report after report after report has condemned the rate of poverty in this country, and called on the government to act. Meanwhile 40,000 kids are fed by charities and up to 80,000 are going to school hungry. National has responded with complete denial of the issues, saying that the government is already doing enough to help families feed their kids. Organisations working with the poor say that Key is in poverty ‘la la land’.

The Nats refuse to even measure the problem (though they certainly believe in measurement and goals when it suits them to bash beneficiaries). In a 2012 summary of the government’s targets and goals John Armstrong wrote: “Glaringly absent is a target for reducing child poverty”…

The costs of child poverty are in the range of $6-8 Billion per year, but the Nats refuse to spend the $2 Billion that would be needed to really make a difference. Even in purely economic terms National’s attitude makes no sense.

28 comments on “Poverty Watch 32”

  1. dumrse 1

    For an unbeknown reason I’ve kept an eye on this blog for the last 24hrs and all I can conclude is that there is no mass poverty in the ghettos. Certainly, not at a level that labels this country as a third world basket case. Perhaps the critics are finally realising there is a degree of truth in the notion that if you try hard, you can do better for yourself.

  2. Rich the other 2

    Enough of this crap.

    We all know poverty exists and is a blight on our society.
    The question I ask is how can we expect to improve anything when green/labour seem determined to under mine major any new revenue earning ventures.

    The govt has a vision of improving earnings from new energy projects but green/labour are opposing these big money making ventures, money that would improve the lot of those trapped in poverty.

    A glaring Example is Bathurst’s mining venture.
    The value to the NZ economy is estimated to be more than one Billion $.
    Hard to believe labour would be so embarrassingly sucked in by the greens and won’t support this project.
    Before anyone jumps up and down about coal , do some research on global coal use and it’s long term future .
    Coal for many on this planet is life and death ,1.6 billion in China and India have no electricity.
    We have to embrace any new venture ( subject to balanced environment protections ) if we are going to eradicate poverty.

    • One Anonymous Knucklehead 2.1

      Why bother taking so much time and energy constructing such sophisticated transparent bullshit?

      Yeah, the Left hates economic growth so much GDP always increases more under Labour led governments than it does under National led ones.

      You need better lies.

    • Jenny 2.2

      Hard to believe labour would be so embarrassingly sucked in by the greens and won’t support this project.

      Rich the other

      In fact the opposite is the case.

      In discussions I have had with prominent Green Party supporters, I have been told that the Green Party leadership will give up their party’s objection to open cast coal mining of the Denniston Plateu for the export market, even over the objections of their membership, in exchange for appointment to cabinet positions.

      I think Rich, that you need to provide some proof to back up your above statement. I have looked, and I can find no evidence at all, of your claim that Labour won’t support this project under pressure from the Greens. Or indeed that the Greens will object to this project as a condition of going into coalition with the Labour Party. I wish I could.

      Rich, I think your utterances devoid of fact, could be improved with a little validation, or substantiation. Maybe even a fact or two wouldn’t hurt. So how about it? How about, providing us a link or some other proof, to show that Labour have backed off supporting coal mining on the Denniston Plateau by Bathhurst Resources.

      • Jenny 2.2.1

        Post Scriptum

        Rich, I am gladdened to see that you admit, what your Right Wing colleague dmrse denies, that “We all know poverty exists and is a blight on our society.”.

        But I can’t help feeling that you are acknowledging this reality for the opportunist motive of pushing the Right Wing Drill it, Mine it, Frack it, mantra of the fossil fuel lobby.

        However, I do agree with you when you say:

        “Coal for many on this planet is life and death…..”

        Rich the other

        Globally, coal has been identified as the Number 1 cause of climate change.
        In the words of James Hansen; “If we can’t stop coal it is all over for the climate.”

        Climate change caused by burning coal at current levels, will be measured in millions of human lives, complete destruction of some bio-spheres, total extinction for many species, ocean acidification, desertification, loss of sea and glacial ice fields, greatly energised weather systems over wider areas of the globe, more tornadoes, more hurricanes, more floods, more heatwaves, more droughts, inexorably rising sea level eventually flooding most coastal cities on a regular basis as well as destroying most low coastal agriculture through salt water intrusion and regular flooding. All this and more has been forecast to happen if we keep burning coal and other fossil fuels at current levels. This not even the worst case scenario. If runaway methane outgassing begins in the Oceans then……

        • dumrse

          Dumrse didn’t deny fuck all. You are so typical of the left who read what is not there and then have the audacity to comment on what’s not written. Stick to the script. Just to make myself very clear to you once again, I don’t see mass poverty that would label NZ as a third world country.

          • Murray Olsen

            So you’re happy as long as we’re doing better than Eritrea. Gee, I have to admire your ambition.

      • Rich the other 2.2.2

        You your self have just confirmed for the greens poverty is secondary to political gain for the greens. MINING in exchange for a CABINET PORTFOLIO, so much for their environmental principles.
        more later.

        • ghostrider888

          maybe “poverty” should be “environment”, as mining = revenue and employment.

      • Rich the other 2.2.3

        Jenny, pt2

        Labours position on mining is very undecisive.
        Joyce has challenged them in parliament to support this particular project but no they won’t to their detriment.
        This project still has more obstacles to overcome in the courts which means more delays ,and a continuing bad look for labour.
        A simple declaration from labour of support for this project would be politicly smart , they need to do something to lift their profile or it’s political oblivion for them.

        Proof, how about ruth dyson ,shearer ,labours finance spokesman? all say no.
        Damian O’Conner , west coaster, has a feeble muted position, he has plenty of experience with mining on the coast but it’s NO, this obviously the party line ,if he had a choice it would be yes.

        • Rich the other

          Great news ,just confirming my gut feeling.

          Two new political polls have confirmed a strong lead for National
          A One News-Colmar Brunton poll puts National up a huge 6 percentage points since early April to 49 per cent – enough to govern alone – with Labour trailing on 33 (down 3).

          The Green Party was down 4 points at 9 per cent.


        • Rich the other

          Jenny pt3
          How about this ,confirmation of my previous post.
          Labour NO, Damian Oconner YES but over ruled by the labour caucus., at least he’s having a go.

          Today in parliament

          In a May 2 letter to Mr Smith, tabled in Parliament, Mr O’Connor wrote: “As Minister of Conservation, your involvement is crucial to the withdrawal of appeals against the mine and I urge you to take whatever action you can to support Bathurst Mining and the future of the Westport community

          What’s so bizarre about labours position is that this land has no special protection and has been mined in the past.
          How can labour be considered as a potential government when they are so out of touch with reality.
          $1 billion to the economy and they say NO,
          If this drags on it will haunt them in the next election campaign.

  3. Gosman 3

    Relative poverty rates have been trending downwards (or at least remaining static by some measures) over the past 15 or so years and now suddenly it becomes a human rights issue. Amnesty International should stick to their knitting of dealing with proper abuses like people being locked up for their political beliefs.

    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      “relative poverty rates”?

      GINI has been increasing in NZ not decreasing.

    • Jenny 3.2

      Amnesty International should stick to their knitting of dealing with proper abuses like people being locked up for their political beliefs.


      A situation that may soon be realised here, under National’s new laws targeting protesting at sea.

      Elvis Teddy laid fishing line out where his people have fished for hundreds of years. The government sent the navy and the police to arrest Teddy, claiming that he was impeding a foreign owned oil company vessel from half a world away owned by Petrobras. Who was impeding who? is a political question. The courts agreed with Teddy’s political point of view that he had a right to do what he did and let him go with out charge. National have now changed the laws to make protesting at sea illegal.

      If this law had been in effect when the seaborne protests against nuclear ships were taking place, the prisons would have been bulging with hundreds of political prisoners. Muldoon would be leftist compared to the right wing extremists in charge of the government now.

      National have changed the law to jail protesters for up to two years.
      National have changed the laws to let off secret police lawbreakers. They have ignored law breaking by the regular police against Tuhoe.

      And worst of all they have ignored poverty created by present and past administration’s application of neo liberal poison to the benefit of the already privileged and well off.

      As time goes by this administration is becoming more openly extreme and nastily right wing.

      Who can deny it?

      • Murray Olsen 3.2.1

        I thought the court finding in the Elvis Teddy case was that the government had no jurisdiction to stop him, not that the court necessarily agreed that he was right. It’s an important difference.

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