Poverty Watch 22

Written By: - Date published: 8:25 am, March 9th, 2013 - 3 comments
Categories: national, poverty - Tags:

In recent posts in this series we’ve focused on the Children’s Social Health Monitor 2012 Update Report, see the the full report (pdf) here.  Today we look at the the final Health and Wellbeing Indicator, and a wrap-up for the report.


Every one is one too many, and the effects of child abuse (as detailed in the report) are both complex, and long lasting. Here’s the summary of the data relating to incidence, with the same socioeconomic / racial distribution as usual:

A UNICEF report on child maltreatment deaths, from 1994 to 1998, placed New Zealand near the bottom for deaths in the OECD, at number 24 out of 27 countries [43]. The mortality rate for New Zealand was 1.2 deaths per 100,000 children under the age of 15 years, compared to the OECD median of 0.6 deaths per 100,000 children. A recent study published in the Lancet found no clear evidence of a decrease in child maltreatment in New Zealand over the past two decades [44]. Between 2006 and 2010 there were 36 deaths due to assault among children aged 28 days to 14 years [45]. Between 2006 and 2010 there were 13.9 per 100,000 hospital admissions for injuries arising from assault, neglect or maltreatment of girls aged 0 to 14 years, and 24.3 per 100,000 for boys [46]. The rate of hospitalisation increased with increasing socioeconomic deprivation (RR 5.59, 95% CI 4.22–7.41 for NZDep deciles 9–10 vs. deciles 1–2), with rates of hospitalisation for Māori (39.1 per 100,000) and Pacific children (24.4 per 100,000) being significantly higher than for NZ European children (11.8 per 100,000).



After summarising these (and related) datasets, as usual the section ends. And that’s it, boom, end of the report (apart from Appendices on the data and statistical methods). I was surprised to find that the report didn’t finish up with conclusions and recommendations. Presumably their mandate was simply to present data, not to discuss its implications.

Nonetheless I think there are obvious conclusions to be drawn (they have cropped up time and time again in the data) and thus there are recommendations to be made. So I’ll have a go at writing a brief section myself.


Poverty causes many health, mental and social problems. In general there is a strong correlation with the degree of poverty – the poorer you are the worse it gets. Recommend: We should be taking serious action to eliminate poverty (there is every indication that such action would more than pay for itself in savings, for example to crime and health costs).

Families on benefits are disadvantaged, and unemployment is too high so too many families are affected. Recommend: The economy should be managed so as to create jobs instead of destroying them.

Benefits, in particular the DPB, are too low – children in these families are severely disadvantaged. Recommend: Raise the benefits.

In NZ the issue of poverty is inexorably bound to the issue of race. Maori and Pacific populations are the poorest, and therefore suffer the most from the ill effects (and the ongoing disadvantages) of poverty. Recommendation: Assistance should be targeted at the poorest. In the NZ context this means that assistance targeted to and in partnership with Maori and Pacific populations is likely to be the most effective.

The neoliberal “reforms” of the 1980s / 1990s did immense damage.

The detrimental effects of poverty are both complex, and long lasting. They limit social mobility and contribute to the significant inter-generational continuity of social problems. There is no “level playing field”. Recommend: Political policy should acknowledge these factors and work to “break the cycle” of poverty.

That’s it for the Children’s Social Health Monitor 2012 Update Report

I won’t summarise any current news this time, I’ll just point you to this excellent post at Local Bodies – “Child Poverty, No Plan!“. Go read 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.

3 comments on “Poverty Watch 22”

  1. Rogue Trooper 1

    Aotearoa; hotbed of physical, emotional and psychological child abuse. Burning those sacred cows.

  2. rosy 2

    The recommendations of the Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty probably give the best set of conclusions and recommendations I’ve seen. There are 78 of them, ranging from data collection and tax credits to local delivery of health, welfare and education services for poor kids and their parents. All are worth reading, from page 37.

    Regards targeting – Although Maori and Pacific peoples are over-represented in poverty statistics it seems to me that shifting resources from one poor group to another poor group (e.g. who’s to say children of disabled poor are less worthy of resources than children of poor working parents) is a recipe for setting up conflict rather than cooperation among the poor.

    It’s redistribution of resources from the well-off to the poor through the tax system, and the effective delivery of services that increase overall wealth to the most disadvantaged that counts. Effective delivery to Maori and Pacific peoples obviously means more resources are required to meet their needs, but that is not the same as one poor group getting more than another, just as needy, group.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      Regards targeting – Although Maori and Pacific peoples are over-represented in poverty statistics it seems to me that shifting resources from one poor group to another poor group (e.g. who’s to say children of disabled poor are less worthy of resources than children of poor working parents) is a recipe for setting up conflict rather than cooperation among the poor.


      That’s why you make such such help universal and the cover the cost by taxing properly. As I’ve said before, the most efficient “insurance” system is society itself.

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