The Herald has had a plethora of columns urging action on the 230,000-270,000 in Child Poverty this week. There have been 3 weighty reports on Child Poverty out recently to spur them, but the even conservative ol’ Granny Herald seems to have got the message, as Bryan Gould put it today in Tackling child poverty in NZ should be national priority.
He says we need to have 3 tasks to defeat it: jobs, better wages (as expressed by my brother David in another Herald opinion piece today), and funding families through those expensive early years. He points out that John Key’s ‘dopey’ remark saying that National’s objection of giving to the rich as well as the poor seems odd when they’ve previously not shown much hesitation to implement policies that just benefit the rich. Also, National’s tactic of blaming the poor is invalid:
It is time we stopped deluding ourselves that unemployment is a lifestyle choice. People are out of work because there are not enough jobs. There are not enough jobs because the economy remains stalled in recession mode.
Susan St John – also today – pushes the Greens’ private members bill to extend the (badly named) “In-Work” tax credit to beneficiaries:
Make no mistake, an extra $60 a week for a family really matters. For many it represents the difference between being cold and sick and being able to pay the power bill, being able to go to the doctor, and being able to buy nutritious food.
Childhood poverty has lifelong consequences for health, education, and social and economic participation and is completely unnecessary in a developed country such as New Zealand.
The minister has recently trivialised the issue by claiming that families can go in and out of poverty on “almost a daily basis”.
She appears unaware of her own department’s full documentation of the extent, depth and duration of child poverty and of the evidence from the health sector of the serious harm to children of third world diseases that are the consequence of poverty.
Yesterday Tapu Misa commented on the fact that our child poverty rate has doubled in the last 30 years of neo-liberal policies.
How many reports on child poverty does it take to shame governments into action? Too many to recount here. […]
What the Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty makes patently clear is that child poverty isn’t inevitable. International evidence shows that it can be reduced, with the right mix of policies: “Countries can choose how much child poverty they are prepared to tolerate.” […]
The expert group has solutions, some ambitious, all “realistic, evidence-based, cost effective and fiscally responsible”.
Among these is the return to a child benefit – universal to the age of 6, and then targeted after that (“dopey”, said John Key); free meals in our poorest schools; and warrants of fitness for rental accommodation.
The group also supports an official poverty measure (necessary if we’re to achieve a 30 per cent cut by 2022), and urges a review of child-related benefit rates, including the controversial in-work tax credit, which keeps the children of many working poor from falling below the poverty line, but pretends that there’s a public good to ignoring the equally critical needs of the children of the unemployed.
The expert group points out, as others have, to the “lifetime scars” left by child poverty; poverty exacts enormous human and economic costs that we all end up paying one way or another.
Even John Armstrong says that the Child Poverty report must not be ignored:
Yet another damning report on child poverty; yet another announcement of a further piece in the welfare reform jigsaw to draw attention away from that report’s bleak contents…
He notes the political cynicism that marks the government’s reply:
You would, therefore, have had to come down in the last shower to believe it was mere coincidence the Government confirmed that drug testing would go ahead on the same day a major report on child poverty was released.
[ That same cynical media posturing was obvious yesterday as they announced the Afghanisatan withdrawal just before the retreat on Asset Sales. ]
Armstrong also points out that after Key’s visit to McGehan Close in 2008 to talk about the “ladder of Opportunity”, child poverty has signficantly risen.
Under its “Better Public Services” banner, National has […] supporting vulnerable children by increasing the participation rate in early childhood education, increasing infant immunisation rates and reducing the incidence of rheumatic fever, and reducing the number of assaults on children.
Glaringly absent is a target for reducing child poverty.
So will National listen? Will they think of the children, or will it be more CRAP (Child Result Action Plan) and Armstrong’s conclusion is correct?
National will continue to tackle only the more politically noisy and troublesome manifestations of child poverty. Not surprisingly, it does not look kindly on those reminding the public it is doing only that.
Our children deserve better than that.