These Poverty Watch posts have been mostly focused on the New Zealand situation, of course. But it is worth reminding ourselves that similar stories are being played out in similar countries. Take the impact of the politics of austerity in England. Two days ago their Children’s Commissioner released this report:
New analysis demonstrates how Government economic policy hits families with children hardest and will result in 600,000 more children living in poverty by 2015
Over half a million more children will be forced into poverty by 2015 because of Government fiscal policies and tax and benefit changes, according to a report published today by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England. The least fair aspect of welfare reforms and fiscal measures between 2010 and 2015 is that the poorest children are worst hit.
The report, Child Rights Impact Assessment of Budget Decisions: including the 2013 Budget, and the cumulative impact of tax-benefit reforms and reductions in spending on public services 2010 – 2015 is based on a detailed quantitative analysis of the cumulative effects of cuts in public spending and tax and benefit changes. The work was carried out by expert independent economists.
The changes will have the greatest negative impact on families with children who are losing, on average, £41.07 a week. Single parents and those with disabled children are particularly hard hit, with the former will losing 7.8% of their income. The income of families with children has been reduced by over twice as much as similar families without children.
Universal Credit and reforms that will come into force by 2015 and 2016 will go some way to offsetting the negative effects of fiscal measures and benefit reforms for some families, but will not cancel all the losses that families have experienced since 2010.
The report sets out the negative effect the changes are having on children against the international duties the Government has signed-up to. The evidence suggests that the Government has not complied with the obligation to implement children’s rights to the maximum extent of the resources available to it. This is in stark contrast with its stated commitment to reducing child poverty.
This report appears to be based (almost entirely?) on an earlier report by the UK Child Poverty Action Group:
Coalition policies to push 600,000 children into absolute poverty by 2015
New analysis for Child Poverty Action Group by Landman Economics has found that an increase of 600,000 children in absolute child poverty is likely between 2010 and 2015.
The analysis is made on the basis of the Coalition tax and benefit spending policies implemented since 2010, and planned to be implemented up to 2015. It is net of any improvements to child poverty from Universal Credit.
A Freedom of Information request by Child Poverty Action Group has also revealed for the first time new information about the child poverty impacts of the Welfare Benefit Uprating Bill:
- It will push 200,000 children into absolute poverty (previous impact assessment was only given for relative poverty)
- The government has failed to make any assessment of the impact of the bill on (1) material deprivation of children, and (2) persistent poverty of children (the government has targets for both these measures under the Child Poverty Act)
Imran Hussain, Head of Policy, Child Poverty Action Group, said:
“These alarming figures reveal that not only are the poorest families in the country being left behind compared to everyone else, but also that their living standards are going into reverse as they struggle to absorb the impact of wave after wave of policy decisions that hit families with children the hardest.
“This is not just about pace and scale of cuts, it boils down to ensuring that our children are not on the frontline of austerity.
“Spending cuts pushing families and children into poverty are part of what’s holding back the economy. This is because low income families spend their money straight away in their local shops and services, helping struggling businesses to survive.
“With the economy still stagnant, it is time to look at how helping families might also help the economy. Ministers should start by accepting the amendment to the welfare benefits uprating bill so that children’s benefits and tax credits can keep up with rising prices.
“The Budget provides an important opportunity for Ministers to do more to help families. It’s fair pay, affordable childcare, affordable homes and full employment that is needed by families if we are to make progress ending poverty and getting the economy growing strongly again.”
Sound familiar? Right wing / conservative governments the world over work the same way.
One other bit of NZ news this week, with an international flavour. Check out the “Race to End Poverty”, and help try to end human trafficking in Nepal.
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.