It is fortuitous that this series has just finished reviewing the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCCC) 2012 report “Child Poverty in New Zealand evidence for action“. Good timing because this week the government released its response (pdf).
How has the government’s response been received? From Brian Rudman:
Free breakfast as poverty solution? It’s a joke
Last December, the Government’s expert advisory group on Solutions to Child Poverty came up with 78 recommendations. It painted a grim picture. “As many as 23 per cent of children – about 270,000 – currently live in poverty.” It said the economic cost of child poverty was $6 billion to $8 billion a year and it was damaging the nation’s long-term prosperity. For individual children it meant going to school hungry, living in a cold, damp house and missing out on school outings and sports. It led to lower educational achievement, poor health and social exclusion.
Calling for “political vision, courage and determination”, the report declared “no child should experience severe and persistent poverty, least of all in a land of relative abundance”.
Yesterday’s package was not a demonstration of that political vision, courage and determination. It was more the plucking of the lowest, and cheapest fruit in the 78-strong basket and wrapping it with the shiniest of Warehouse-quality wrapping paper. …
The Government yesterday was patting itself on the back for adopting some of the 78 recommendations of its advisory group. But the initiatives it has seized, such as the pilot scheme of a warrant-of-fitness programme for rental houses and consideration of micro-financing loans for low-income families, are just baby steps. As solutions to the problem of 270,000 children living in poverty, they’re a joke.
Response to poverty report a disgrace
The Government’s response to recommendations made by the expert advisory group on solutions to child poverty is an absolute insult – not only to members of the group, but to every Kiwi family struggling to make ends meet, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.
“This group gave almost a year of its time, produced 24 working papers and gave 78 detailed recommendations. In response, the government has given it the brush-off.
“There are some 270,000 Kiwi kids living in income-deprived households. According to Paula Bennett the panacea to lifting them out of poverty is tax cuts and low floating mortgage rates. ….
“The first step, it [the group] said, was to introduce specific measurements for child poverty, set short and long-term targets, establish various child poverty-related indicators and ensure the regular monitoring and reporting on results.
“This government has never shied away from setting targets in other areas. When it comes to child poverty it is obviously running scared, because none of those things have been addressed in this response.
Action on incomes needed to address poverty
The Government’s final response to recommendations made by the expert advisory group on solutions to child poverty is a cop out leaving the extensive work carried out by the Children’s Commission largely ignored, the Green Party said today
The Children’s Commissioner’s ‘Solutions to Child Poverty’ report called for action to improve family incomes to ensure all New Zealand children get a good start in life and can fulfil their potential. …
“The Children’s Commissioner’s expert report recommended a universal child payment as a key step towards ensuring all our children have the best possible start in life. The Government should listen to that recommendation.
“We support a universal child payment as the best and fairest way to ensure that all children, not just some, have the opportunity to have a good life, and a fair, bright and prosperous future.
“We will also instigate a national poverty measure and implement the recommendations of the Children’s Commissioner so that the right information is collected in order to be able to tackle child poverty at its source.
“We’ve got all the evidence we need for comprehensive policy to end child poverty. What will it take to make the National Government wake up and do something to save a whole generation of children?”
Group says Recommendations to Reduce Child Poverty Ignored
CPAG’s public health spokesperson Dr Nikki Turner says the government has cherry picked through the Expert Advisory Group’s 78 recommendations to focus on only a handful of issues. …
“The government has failed to respond to the EAG’s recommendations in particular to the major issue of income inadequacy for the poorest kids.”
The response of one of the leaders of the OCC report:
Govt defends child poverty moves
PM says National cares about the problem but expert panel head says key proposals in report ignored.
Prime Minister John Key has had to defend National against criticism that the Government’s response to a child poverty report fell short, despite adding a sweetener by announcing $9.5 million towards a breakfast in schools programme.
…there was criticism that the long-awaited response failed to address the key recommendations in the panel’s report. Panel co-chairman Professor Jonathan Boston said it was disappointing the Government ignored key proposals to measure child poverty and set targets to improve it, and to address the issue of low incomes by providing extra financial support such as through a child payment for those on benefits.
… very little of what the Government has done to date directly addresses the challenges of low incomes. Government initiatives are all well and good, but we have a situation where hundreds of thousands of children are experiencing material deprivation. So in many ways this is dealing primarily with mitigating the consequences of poverty rather than reducing the nature of the problem.”
I intend to go in to this further next week, looking in a bit more detail at the OCC recommendations and how the government has responded or (as is more usually the case) not.
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.