In Poverty Watch 34 I had a detailed look at the government’s “response” to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC) 2012 report “Child Poverty in New Zealand evidence for action”. The response could best be described as pathetic.
Here’s an interesting piece published in the Huffington Post by a writer from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (a large philanthropic foundation in the USA). It sets out some of the background to poverty in the USA. Then, in contrast to our own disinterested government, it sets out what a realistic response would actually look like:
Pathways Out of Poverty Require Two-Generation Solutions
Here are some distressing facts: More than 32 million children live in low-income homes, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty. Worse, children who spend half of their childhoods in “persistently poor” households are far more likely to endure poverty as adults, according to a study by the Urban Institute. They are 90 percent more likely to enter their 20s without a high school diploma and four times more likely to have a teen premarital birth. Under these conditions, it’s no surprise the cycle of poverty persists from generation to generation.
Recent research reveals that the timing of child poverty is a significant factor. Compared with children whose family incomes were at least double the poverty line ($23,550 for a family of four), those who are poor during early childhood completed two fewer years of schooling and were three times more likely to be in poor health. Annually, they earned half as much and received $826 more in food stamps. Males were more than twice as likely to be arrested, and women were five times more likely to have a child out of wedlock before age 21. However, an annual financial boost to the family of just $3,000 helped reap a harvest of improvements in these areas for both parents and children. …
At the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we believe we must strengthen two generations simultaneously. Children and parents do not exist in silos and neither should our solutions. To be effective, we must support quality education for young children and equitable opportunity for parents. AVANCE in Texas and New Mexico and INPEACE in Hawaii are two successful models we support. Both engage children in culturally and developmentally appropriate education and work with parents to create stable, nurturing homes where children thrive socially, emotionally and educationally. They connect parents to knowledge and resources that build financial literacy, parenting skills and civic leadership. …
Now is the time to scale up the work of organizations like these who are fundamentally changing the service system and implementing two-generation solutions. We know there are 46 million Americans in poverty and 12 million currently out of work. At this moment, when opportunity meets urgency, we must, as philanthropists and leaders, engage in strategies that build bridges for parents and children to move out of poverty together.
Yes. That’s a good framing for what needs to happen. All the childhood intervention in the world won’t break the cycle if the child is still living in a family shackled by poverty. We can’t lift children out of poverty without lifting their parents out with them. Labour Party policy planners take note!
“Too expensive!” – the Right will scream. No – it’s too expensive not to. Not that National cares about rational arguments on poverty. It’s in the footnote every Poverty Watch. 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.
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.