Time for action on child poverty is now

Published: Tue 28 Aug 2012 01:35 PM
Social Development Spokesperson
Spokesperson for Children
28 August 2012 MEDIA STATEMENT
Time for action on child poverty is now
A report released today confirms the number of New Zealand children growing up in poverty is at crisis level, Labour’s Social Development and Children’s spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.
“The Children’s Commission report is the third report in as many weeks to state unequivocally that child poverty is an issue that we must address, and with urgency.
“It is no longer enough for Paula Bennett to hedge around the issue with arguments about whether or not there is an official poverty line. The Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty points out ‘the incidence of child poverty – at 25 per cent or 270,000 children - in New Zealand is unacceptably high’.
“It also notes it is costing the country billions of dollars. A key finding of the report is that early investment in young children will pay massive dividends. With Infometrics estimating that the cost of children having a poor start in life sitting at $6 billion, we can’t afford not to act.
“And that means Ms Bennett has to stop making excuses.
“Claims that the global financial crisis is to blame for the Government’s inaction are spurious. This report demonstrates clearly the many ideas it could have adopted over the last four years to relieve the pressure on families and the impact of the economic downturn on children.
“The lack of any meaningful action plan has contributed to worsening income equality and higher numbers of children living in persistent poverty. The number of children living in hardship is also up from 15 to 21 per cent.
“We can be outraged by all manner of things, but if there’s one thing we should be doubly outraged about it is that.
“The Commissioner’s report provides a starting point for the Government, with many of its recommendations closely aligned with what Labour has advocated in its children’s policy. These include:
• Better health services before birth
• ‘Opt off’ enrolment into primary health care, including well child
• Implementing the ECE taskforce recommendations
• Addressing issues around income, including the impact that low wages are having on working families
• Introducing a Children’s Act which includes poverty reduction as a target
“At the very least the Government should immediately accept the recommendation to reduce child poverty by at least 30 per cent and to halve severe and persistent child poverty within 10 years. If anything, it should be our top priority to achieve this even sooner.
“This report offers the Government a range of ideas to deal with child poverty. There is no reason for it not to act now,” said Jacinda Ardern.

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