Last week’s edition of Poverty Watch was the culmination of a long series on the OCC report on Child Poverty which examined the government’s formal response (take home message – it was a joke). Just a quick post this week, as I am in transit.
3 News runs a monthly show called “The Vote”. The topic this month, screening on Wednesday June 19, is highly relevant to Poverty Watch:
This Month’s Debate: Our kids – The problem’s not poverty, it’s parenting.
That’s pretty much the essence of the left-wing and right-wing perspectives. I think it’s healthy to have the debate out in the open, rather than the right-wing view lurking behind sewer blogs and snide innuendo.
New Zealand has long been talked about as ‘the best place in the world to raise children’, but in the past generation that claim’s been repeatedly challenged by stories and statistics of child abuse, health problems, drug and alcohol issues and educational failure. Too many of our kids aren’t getting the start in life they deserve.
But where does the problem – and the solutions – lie? While child poverty has become a major issue, are our kids suffering because of a lack of money or a lack of good parenting?
Most recently New Zealanders have been debating a food-in-schools programme that raised questions about who’s primarily responsible for our children. Following recommendations from the Children’s Commissioner and a campaign by the Mana Party, the government announced it would spend almost $2 million a year expanding the KickStart Breakfast programme from two to five mornings a week in decile one to four schools. But is it helping kids in need? Or just letting parents off the hook?
This month The Vote looks at how we care for our kids. Is the problem poverty or parenting? And what can we do about it?
On the negative team: Celia Lashlie, Russell Wills, Hone Harawira
On the affirmative: Bob McCoskrie, Hannah Tamaki, Christine Rankin
Let’s hope that it is an informative debate. The actual voting tally won’t reflect anything meaningful of course (being biased by demographics), but for those inclined to participate in such things voting is open 8:30 to 9:30pm. The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) notes on their Facebook page:
Anyway, I would urge you to watch the show and vote if you can – it would be good to get some strong voter numbers in support of the “poverty” side because blaming the situation on parents alone simply lets the government off the hook.
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.