A $2 billion Government overhaul, including more state homes and universal child support, is needed to fight child poverty, a report from the children’s commissioner says.
Russell Wills’ final report into child poverty has thrown the ball back to the Government, recommending 78 changes, including enshrining child welfare in law.
However, the Government has already poured cold water on the report
The proposed changes to help our 270,000 children in poverty include:
Quick, cheap and relatively easy:
A “warrant of fitness” for all rental homes, ensuring they meet minimum standards for health and safety.
Government to work with finance sector to provide zero-interest or cheap loans for struggling families.
An expanded food-in-schools programme for low-decile primary and immediate schools.
Increased focus on keeping young parents in education.
Create community hubs as a one-stop shop for support services.
Longer, harder and more expensive:
Review all child benefits and refocus them on child welfare.
Create a new universal child payment for all children under 5.
Support for older children would be targeted, based on income.
Increase the number of social houses by at least 2000 a year for the next eight years.
Extend free doctor visits over time to cover all children under 18.
It’s all do-able, and $2 billion isn’t much more than the Government spent on South Canterbury Finance without a second thought. It pales next to the Government’s motorways program. And indeed one can view it as not a cost but an investment: that poverty costs us $6-8 billion/year.
But despite repeated recommendations by experts National still think such ideas as a universal child payment is silly and unaffordable (and despite its being common and very affordable in most western countries).
Food in Schools, decent rental standards are on the opposition agenda as no-brainers – but they are off National’s agenda despite being the ‘easy’ options. Instead they cut Adult Education (with its incredible return on investment) which would help young parents.
And don’t get me started on their wrong direction for state/social housing…
Child Poverty is an indictment on our status as a first world nation. The Government should step up.