Lost opportunity to address child poverty

Published: Fri 21 May 2010 05:04 PM
Budget 2010: a lost opportunity to address child poverty
Every Child Counts says that yesterday’s Budget was better than expected with across the board income tax cuts a positive move for whanau and families.
“We are concerned however that these income gains will be eroded when the anticipated increase in inflation occurs,’ says Dennis McKinlay, of Every Child Counts* today.
“We are also disappointed that the government has not taken the opportunity to address child poverty.”
“The Ministry of Social Development’s 2009 Social Report showed that 20 per cent of dependent children were in households with incomes below the 60 per cent threshold. This was an increase from 16 per cent in 2007 and reflects the rise in housing costs for households with children.”
“They will suffer in the short and longer term as a consequence of yet another missed opportunity to address our continuing high rate of child poverty.
“One in five children today are missing out on food, healthcare, winter clothing, and adequate housing. It is particularly disturbing that this poverty is disproportionately located among Māori and Pasifika families, “adds Mr McKinlay.
“Let us be clear: we are talking of children arriving at school unfed and infants whose parents can’t afford to take them for after hours medical care for lung infections caused by inadequately heated or overcrowded homes. So great is the need that that the charitable Trust, KidsCan, has distributed over 35,000 raincoats through our schools.”
“But instead of addressing this obvious social need, the government has opted for tax cuts that will substantially increase income inequality in New Zealand, despite our levels of income inequality already being internationally high.”
“Of all the OECD countries, only Greece, Italy, Portugal, USA, Poland, Turkey, UK, and Mexico have greater income inequality.”
“The irony is that while we pursue taxation policies to improve productivity, we are failing to invest in our future work force. Investing in children now would also reduce future government spending. It is no accident that as economic policies have entrenched inequality over the past 20-30 years we have also seen a burgeoning in health, social services, justice and prison expenditure.
“The budget is being praised for the ‘once in a generation’ changes which are being made to our tax system. We are being assured that these changes will slow the brain drain and retain our skilled people to aid economic growth and that we will all benefit in the long run as productivity increases. But there is no acknowledgement that the current generation of children living in poverty could more productively contribute to our nation’s future if they were invested in today.”
“Improving national productivity without developing our human capital, children, can only lead to greater social alienation and continued high levels of government spending on social services the disadvantaged access”, he concludes.

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