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Poverty Watch 17

Written By: - Date published: 8:08 am, February 2nd, 2013 - 6 comments
Categories: national, poverty - Tags:

Here we go with Poverty Watch for another year.

December 2012 saw the release of two important reports, the Children’s Social Health Monitor 2012 Update Report, and the Children’s Commisioner Expert Advisory Group’s report on Solutions to Child Poverty (EAG Report).  I hope to spend time over the next couple of weeks looking at each in turn.

Here’s the home page for the Children’s Social Health Monitor 2012 Update Report, with a pdf of the full report here.  The Introduction kicks off with the underlying truth which frames the issue of child poverty in NZ – poverty is a racial issue:

In New Zealand, there are currently large disparities in child health status, with Māori and Pacific children and those living in more deprived areas experiencing a disproportionate burden of morbidity and mortality…

Poverty is also an intergenerational issue – we don’t all get the same start or equal opportunities in life:

In New Zealand, children and young people living in more deprived areas experience significantly worse health outcomes across a range of measures (e.g. infant mortality, hospital admissions for infectious and respiratory diseases, non-accidental injuries) [1]. Growing up in a low income family also increases the risk of longer term negative outcomes, such as leaving school without formal qualifications and economic inactivity. …

In addition, the presence of social safety nets (e.g. free education and healthcare, unemployment benefits and others forms of income support) may buffer the effects of low family income, with social gradients in health being much less marked in countries with robust social security provisions [4].

These are the very social security provisions that the government is keen on dismantling.  Most of the rest of the introduction focusses on international and NZ evidence relating to the effects of the severity, duration, and prevalence of poverty on children.  It concludes as follows:

Thus while it is difficult to predict with any certainty the impact the current economic downturn will have on child health outcomes, the available evidence would suggest that one in five New Zealand children (see Children Reliant on Benefit Recipients section) are already exposed to low family incomes as a result of their parent’s benefit status, and that if unemployment remains at the levels seen during the 1990s, a similar number will spend at least five of their first seven years of life reliant on a beneficiary. Further, the Living Standards surveys suggest that New Zealand’s current benefit provisions will be unable to protect these children from severe or significant hardship, and that some of the adaptations families make in response to their inadequate resources may have detrimental health consequences for their children.

While Labour’s record of alleviating poverty is much better than National’s of increasing it, not even Labour dared to significantly increase these inadequate benefits in it’s last term.  It speaks to a failure of boldness on Labour’s part, and a meanness of spirit on the electorate’s, where the idea of increasing benefits is apparently unpopular.  What kind of country are we?

More from this report next time.


In other news – remember this from last year?

Warning on child poverty

The Government has ruled out another of the main recommendations in a major child poverty report – but the Maori Party has sent a warning it will make the Government’s life uncomfortable if it ignores the report.

In a rare step, the Maori Party yesterday held a press conference with all three of its MPs and called on National to look at all 78 recommendations in a new report by an expert panel working with the Children’s Commissioner. …

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said the child poverty report was part of the Maori Party’s support agreement with National and she did not expect National to simply brush the report aside.

Hey Maori Party – guess what – the government is ignoring the report, and they are ignoring you too.  What are you going to do about it?


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.


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6 comments on “Poverty Watch 17”

  1. tracey 1

    Meanwhile, the liquidators of blue chip get paid but no money to sue directors so claimants go without

  2. xtasy 2

    I get depressed every time I see the post ‘Poverty Watch’.

    Yes, it is all appalling, and we know what the answers could be and should be, but do enough out there listen. Another post today is about “charity”, and I fear, too many in the public, fall for this approach like Campbell Live have presented. Give a bit, and do a bit, and it is all done. Sorry, that is not how it works.

    It must not be like going to a church and dropping a few coins into a donation box or bag!

    The rot sits deeper and real serious work and real changes are needed!

    Giving a donation and helping a disadvantaged child is OK in a way, of course, but should it ever come to this, that strangers have to step in, who just feel a bit of media generated “guilt” and sympathy?

    NZ is a very important, efficient food producer, so having kids go to school without breakfast and no shoes, that is unbelievable, for a country that wants to count itself to the “developed world”.

    The system needs changing, and that is where the government has responsibilities.

    But what we get from Bennett is condemnations, appeals, moral lecturing, and a social security reform bill, that will hit out at parents, and make kids suffer more, due to being exposed to new stressors, pressures and unfairness. Social obligations, drug testing, stopping benefits of people that have a warrant out for arrest.

    Whoa, this is insane. Why would WINZ or other MSD staff have to get involved in that, rather than do the work to help people to survive, get food and clothing and housing they need, do more to offer real jobs that pay a living wage, and offer more means to actually assist sick and disabled to get treatments and support they need.

    All this new Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill will do – is wave A GIANT STICK at the beneficiaries, that will also cause more harm to kids.

    Shame on this shit government, they are CRIMINALS, and the traitor Bennett is one of the biggest there!

    • r0b 2.1

      I get depressed every time I see the post ‘Poverty Watch’.

      Sorry xtasy.

      I get depressed writing them too.

      But I don’t want to let child poverty be “last year’s issue”.

      Because nothing has changed.

  3. Mike 3

    The health issues related to poverty aren’t from lack of access to healthcare as access to healthcare for the poor in this country is extremely good. I believe a study I read about (will try and remember what it was) which explained the biggest contributor to ill health amongst the poor is possibly stress. They explained that it is the stress from being poor (stressing about paying the rent, paying the bills, feeding the kids, getting a job, keeping the kids happy, etc,etc) which is the largest contributor to ill health amongst poor people.

    • McFlock 3.1

      It’s not one major issue – stress can compete with overcrowding, nutrition and access to healthcare for the “top contributor” award. Hell, they all work together.

      But the tautological truth is that poverty-related conditions are caused by inequality: relative poverty. That’s why symptomatic treatments alone (food in schools, increasing the vaccine schedule, improving access to primary healthcare) won’t cut it. Band-aids on a stomach wound.

      Poverty is caused by poor employment rights and representation (minimum wage, non-union members freeloading off collectives), high unemployment, poor education, weak or nonexistent safety nets, and government policies that put “warfare” into “social welfare”.

      And fuck the nacts who can sleep at night after inflicting that on millions of their citizens.

    • rosy 3.2

      It depends how you define healthcare access. Accessibility doesn’t just refer to geographic accessibility, transport options and cost.

      An example I’ve noted recently is if a family works temporary or other jobs without security of hours a trip or two to the GP for the kids is going to be put off as long as possible – both in terms of cost and in terms of keeping the hours up. A solution would be after hours services provided at the same cost as usual hours – without the trip to A&E or after hours clinics which are often further away.

      On top of that we’re beginning to see cuts in primary care funding for the most vulnerable. I’m not sure of the impact on poor kids, from these cuts but the impact on the poor generally will make a difference. As will increased prescription charges. Basically the poor are having access to primary care reduced so the government can quantify more surgical procedures listed in there ‘aren’t we good’ file.

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