Chapter 5 Our Recommendations
The previous chapter highlighted the priority recommendations, this chapter sets out a very detailed list, 78 recommendations in all (someone got their money’s worth from the Advisory Group!). That would make for a long post, so I’m only going to cover a few of them. The first section focuses on the need for strategy and accountability:
1 We recommend the enactment of child poverty legislation to ensure the proper and regular measurement of child poverty, the periodic setting of government targets to reduce child poverty, the setting of child poverty-related indicators and targets for selected indicators, and the annual reporting to Parliament of progress towards the achievement of the designated targets by the responsible Minister.
2 We recommend that the government institute at least five official poverty measures to capture the different aspects of child poverty including: a fixed-line income measure; a moving-line income measure; a material deprivation measure; a severe poverty measure; and a measure of poverty persistence.
3 We recommend that the government set targets to reduce child poverty. Such targets should cover both the short-term (three years ahead) and the longer-term (ten years ahead) and should be reviewed at least every three years.
4 We recommend that the targets set for reducing child poverty achieve parity for Mäori and Pasifika with other children. This requires an accelerated rate of poverty reduction for these groups.
As you already know if you’re a regular reader of this series, the Nats (so keen on measurement for beneficiary bashing) have refused to set targets for reducing poverty, they have refused to even try to measure the problem – in fact they seem to find the whole idea literally laughable.
The next section section deals with Tax credits, benefits and income support. The report is not afraid to think big:
11 We recommend that, in the longer-term, the government create a new income support payment for families with dependent children to replace a number of the existing benefits and tax credits, called the Child Payment. The Child Payment would:
• be allocated to 100 percent of children aged 0 to 5 years inclusive
• have the highest value during the first year of a child’s life and reduce as the child
• be targeted based on family income from age 6 years onward.
Then child support, and employment, skills and training. The authors make a (futile) plea for evidence based policy:
18 We recommend that the government evaluate welfare-to-work programmes for the effectiveness and efficiency with which they achieve earnings and employment for participants who are parents, and establish an evidence base of what works and what does not.
The next section of recommendations is on housing, then one each on the issue that has cropped up again and again in these poverty reports, the staus of Maori and Pacifica children:
31 We recommend that the government take additional action to reduce poverty and mitigate its effects for Mäori children and young people so that they are on a par with other children in New Zealand, and report annually on progress.
38 We recommend that the government take additional action to reduce poverty and mitigate its effects for Pasifika children and young people (including children in families who have recently arrived in New Zealand) so that they are on a par with other children in New Zealand, and report annually on progress.
Then sections on problem debt, health and disability, and education:
60 We recommend that the government design and implement a collaborative food-in-schools programme, commencing with decile 1 to 4 primary and intermediate schools.
Hmmm – see last week’s Poverty Watch for that one. The final sections are on local communities and family, the justice system, and finally research and evaluation:
78 We recommend that the government ensure that all policies with major impacts on child poverty be subject to periodic and robust evaluation so that a strong evidence base can be built for guiding future policy-making.
It’s all here, it’s all carefully thought out, linked to the evidence, well structured and concise. This is what we need to be doing. But given that the Nats are not interested in even the first step, defining and monitoring the problem, it is clear that they are never going to move on any of these recommendations.
Once again there was plenty of relevant news this week, but I want to just focus on one piece from last month (before it drops off the bottom of my list). Here’s a screenshot. Discuss…
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.