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.
Wednesday (17 October) was “International Eradication of Poverty Day”. From the UN:
On Day for Eradication of Poverty, UN highlights needs for a holistic approach to helping word’s poor
With inequalities growing dramatically both within and between countries over the last 10 years, the United Nations marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty today with calls to tackle not only the material aspects of the scourge but also its social and educational dimensions and the unequal access to justice.
“Poverty is easy to denounce but difficult to combat,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day. “Those suffering from hunger, want and indignity need more than sympathetic words; they need concrete support.”
(See also the UN press release.) It didn’t get a lot of coverage here in NZ. There was a lunch time rally at Parliament, attended by representatives of Labour, Green and Mana parties, the NZEI, CTU and Service and Food Workers union, but mentioned mainly in the media by leading with the news that Anika Moa played (here, here, here). The rally coincided with a debate on Metiria Turei’s member’s bill to on child payments for low-income families:
Rally calls for end to NZ’s child poverty
…Ms Turei said it was unacceptable that 270,000 children in New Zealand were living in poverty. “New Zealand should be a great place to grow up. But thousands of kids don’t have the same opportunity that other children have to enjoy a good life and a fair future because their lives are hampered by poverty.”
Labour’s social welfare spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said there is political will on ending child poverty. “Unfortunately there is a complete absence of political will on the part of this Government and I use those words strongly, because you cannot deny the facts.”
In other news, there was some coverage of fraught issue of the links between poverty and child abuse. Tapu Misa sums up:
Child abuse plan shows a lack of vision
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is right when she says poverty isn’t an excuse for child abuse. There is no excuse for child abuse.
The link between poverty and inequality on the one hand and child abuse and neglect on the other is well-established.
Even Ms Bennett’s baby, the long-awaited white paper on vulnerable children, acknowledges that. The paper quotes an OECD report which notes that “limited economic resources, financial problems, low levels of education, and unemployment appear to be considerable risk factors for child maltreatment …”
The evidence shows, it adds, that “in high-income countries, low parental income and educational achievement are strongly associated with both child maltreatment and with deaths resulting from abuse”. The Child Poverty Action Group has argued, too, that “the single biggest risk factor for childhood abuse and neglect is poverty and socioeconomic inequality”.
That’s not to say “all or even most low-income families abuse or neglect their children”, or “all at-risk children live in poor households”. But it does mean “no sensible discussion of childhood abuse and neglect can take place without acknowledging the role of whanau and community poverty”.
Yet the white paper, reflecting the Government’s apparent determination to downplay the role of poverty, gives it only passing mention. Barbara Lambourn of Unicef NZ laments the missed opportunity: “Poverty is a factor in neglect, poor health and lack of opportunity – the white paper does not offer solutions to plan better outcomes for these children.”
Until we are honest enough and brave enough to acknowledge the role of poverty in the abuse of children in our society we will never effectively deal with the issue. Thank you Tapu for your excellent column.
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