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Poverty Watch 7

Written By: - Date published: 8:23 am, October 13th, 2012 - 6 comments
Categories: class war, national, poverty - Tags:

Welcome to Poverty watch, a weekly update on the National government’s lack of response to the urgent and growing issue of poverty in NZ. A lot of background issues and links are set out in Poverty Watch one two and three.

In late August the Children’s Commissioner’s “Expert Advisory Committee on Solutions to Child Poverty in New Zealand” released an “Issues and Options Paper for Consultation” (pdf). For some reason The Herald had a renewed focus on the report last weekend, with three pieces appearing. Collins & Masters:

Searching for a way out

Child Poverty: A Special Report
A top-level group is calling for sweeping changes to help our most disadvantaged kids …

What poverty means

As the social workers say, child poverty in New Zealand is not the same as in India, but it is real. A Statistics NZ survey in 2008, before the recession, found that 44 per cent of parents in the poorest tenth of families could not afford waterproof coats for their children. Two-thirds (65 per cent) of that poorest tenth said they had cut back on fresh fruit and vegetables to keep down costs. Almost half (47 per cent) lived in damp or mouldy houses. The recession has made things worse. …

Why it matters

…Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills, who works part-time as a paediatrician in Hastings, says he has made child poverty a priority in his official job because “the vast majority” of the acute chronic illness he sees in his child patients is “poverty-driven”.

“What we see is children with late presentations of unusually severe infectious diseases such as chest infections, skin infections, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever and meningitis – conditions that for our British registrars are shocking because they thought they only existed in third-world countries.”

A 2006 Social Development Ministry study of child abuse found that “child death from maltreatment occurs predominantly in the context of poverty, psychological stress and limited support”.


…Welfare has been around in more or less its current form since 1938, yet child poverty did not take off until the late 1980s and early 90s when trade barriers were lifted and state enterprises sold off.

Unemployment skyrocketed, benefit rates were cut, state houses moved to market rents, and children in families earning under 60 per cent of the median income, after housing costs, trebled from 10 per cent of all children in 1986 to 29 per cent eight years later. Last year the figure was still 25 per cent.

The initial driver was a loss of jobs. In 1986 only 29 per cent of children in poverty lived in households with no fulltime worker; now 65 per cent live in such households.

But another driver has been disintegrating marriages, because 80 per cent of the children in workless families live with only one parent. Sole parents have increased from 10 per cent of all families with children in 1976, soon after the domestic purposes benefit (DPB) was introduced, to 29 per cent today. …

What can be done?

…The group’s initial “options paper”, on which submissions close next Friday, proposes targets to cut child poverty, a food in schools programme, changes to welfare and housing subsidies, a “warrant of fitness” for rental housing, and passing on child support from absent parents to custodial parents instead of siphoning it off to pay for sole-parent benefits.

On the first key poverty driver, jobs, it suggests a carrot-and-stick mix. “Carrots” include more flexible childcare subsidies and giving parents priority for job subsidies. The “stick” is to turn the DPB into a “young child-carer benefit”, make sole-parents look for part-time work one year after giving birth, and stop the benefit completely when their youngest child turns 6, “when there would be an expectation of full-time work”.

Family tax credits would be raised for young children in the short term. In the long term, the group proposes a universal child payment higher than existing tax credits for the first year after giving birth, then stepping down gradually and becoming a targeted top-up like the current tax credits from age 6. …

The outcome

The Government’s initial response to the group’s ideas was dismissive. Key described a universal child payment as “dopey”. …

See also Andrew Laxon, discussing ideas arising from the report:

Six of the best ideas for change

1. Free meals in schools …

2. A warrant of fitness for all rental housing …

3. Every child enrolled with health and social services at birth …

4. Universal child payment …

5. Pass on child support payments …

6. Poverty reduction targets to make politicians accountable …

And Johnathan Boston:

Three myths about child poverty

Why some widely held beliefs on the causes and solutions are wrong and why it matters to put things right.

Myth 1 There is little or no child poverty in New Zealand …

Myth 2 Children are poor and deprived mainly because their parents are bad, mad, foolish or indifferent …

Myth 3 We cannot reduce child poverty simply by increasing the incomes of poor families …

All three of these pieces are worth a detailed read! In other news, the Nats are dithering frantically in response to Labour’s proposal to provide free lunches in low decile schools (odds of concrete action 3/5 of FA). Matt McCarten argues that there’s “No need to starve yourself, just give poor some more”. Two top pediatricians suggest cutting spending on national superannuation to free up funds to help vulnerable children. Beneficiary Sam Kuha is ending a grueling 30-day hunger strike now that Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has agreed to meet him – what took her so long?

Finally, Bryce Edwards has a round-up of “the politicisation of poverty”. Good. It’s about time poverty was politicised. It has been ignored for too long.

Poverty Watch always ends with the following list, the National government’s response to rising poverty in NZ:

• National has not yet set any target for reducing poverty
• ?

6 comments on “Poverty Watch 7 ”

  1. Dr Terry 1

    A government which is poverty-stricken for ideas, will also be poverty-stricken for active concern.

    • Jim Nald 1.1

      This current lot in government, led by bad example from its leader, has also shown itself to be poverty-stricken in many other areas and rather poor at:
      – integrity,
      – truth telling,
      – full disclosure,
      – informing itself better,
      – memory recall,
      – reading reports,
      – taking action to achieve higher standards, …
      – [insert more here]

  2. AsleepWhileWalking 2

    Green Party rang to ask if I could take the following three steps to put pressure on before the first reading of MT’s bill on the 17th (short notice, but still time) :

    – Get More Messages To John Key

    – An Invitation to New Auckland and Wellington Champions

    – Support the Children’s Commission Expert Report on Child Poverty

    Kia ora,

    Welcome to the ‘Take The Step’ campaign, and thanks again for signing up to be a Champion for Children. If you’ve given us a phone number you can expect a call soon about the campaign, and how we’d like to work with you.

    Our first big opportunity to make a difference will be on October 17, when my bill to replace the existing In-Work Tax Credit with a child payment for kids who need it most – even if their parents are beneficiaries or students – will receive its first reading in Parliament. Over a thousand people have already sent a message to John Key saying they want him to support the bill. Now, we need people to spread the word.

    Share ‘Take The Step’

    Can you help us by getting people you know to send a message to John Key before October 17? If you haven’t had a chance to send yours, please do so here today. Then share our website with friends, family, contacts and colleagues on email or Facebook and ask them to do the same (and consider becoming Champions as well).

    Like our Facebook page to follow our updates on child poverty issue, and feel free to share these too.

    Join us at Parliament on October 17

    At 1pm on Wednesday October 17 we’re inviting Champions, parents, families and everyone who believes NZ children deserve a good life and a fair future to meet on Parliament Grounds to help mark the reading of this bill, acknowledge International Elimination of Poverty Day and send a strong message that it takes political will to help children in need.

    Singer-songwriter Anika Moa will be performing, along with speeches and performances, all MC’d by Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown.

    You can RSVP to endchildpoverty@greens.org.nz, or join and share our Facebook event. You can also find a downloadable PDF of our poster for the event here.

    Give Feedback to the Children’s Commissioner

    The Office of the Children’s Commissioner has recently released an Expert Advisory Group Report on Solutions to Child Poverty. It makes some really good recommendations, including extending a child payment to cover all children, improving the quality of rental housing, and develop better indicators and measures of child wellbeing for New Zealand. You can see a summary of the recommendations here.

    The Children’s Commissioner needs feedback from as many people as possible by October 12 on the report – your support will mean that the recommendations remain strong in the final version, which will be presented to the government in December.

    The authors are interested to know your views on:

    Which proposals will be effective in reducing child poverty?

    Which proposals are less likely to be effective?

    What are the most important proposals to reduce child poverty?

    What needs to be done first and why?

    What is missing from the package?

    You can provide feedback quickly and easily in these ways:

    Online : Fill in the online survey
    Email: childpoverty@occ.org.nz

    Thanks again for taking a step for kids.

    Metiria Turei
    Green Party Co-leader

  3. prism 3

    Stopping assistance with exceptions, when the child turns 6 – what’s this about? Sure at six the child can open a cupboard and get food out if Mum is still away working or attending to other needs or even is busy getting the washing in before its wet from the rain. There are many things to do as a parent. In this sort of regime Mum would be able to keep the child fuelled, but home and parents must provide more than the equivalent of a petrol station with a roof over the pumps for the users convenience.

    I think it is important for a single parent to have some work outside the home, so that the parent is not totally dependent and focussed on the children and inward-looking at the home. The family needs to be integrated in society, and able to go for opportunities of work and earning. But the work of the parent should be as decided by her or him as being manageable and there should be option for volunteer or paid work.

    Exhaustion, worry over money and the future, a list of things needing to be done by the single parent, or the one that accepts the responsibility where there are two parents, perhaps having to care for a needy, immature man also, is very debilitating and can mean nearly constant unhappiness.

    The experience of coping with the demands and requirements from having a child or children, plus coping with what seems like hate from the hard, judgmental, child-rejecting negative attitudes of government and a sizable proportion of the general public both men and women, makes child-rearing a difficult and uncelebrated task in an atmosphere of petty meanness and lack of happiness in society as a whole.

  4. Reagan Cline 5

    Looking after your children is the most important thing. Otherwise they will not be able to get through life and will suffer or die from ignorance or lack of skill. Also they will not revere and care for you and if need be fight for you.
    Money is the first necessity today if you don’t take up thieving or lying and if a Mum has more what it takes to bring in the money, Dad should look after the children.
    You have to live in the world as it is.
    How many bugggers who have tried to change the way the world works have looked after their own children ? And ended up fucking the world up worse ?

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