Child poverty is this nation’s shame.

39
3

FeedtheKids

 

The issue of child poverty, and the fight against what I consider to be our Nation’s shame, must be number one on the ‘issues that matter’.  So when Napier’s National MP Chris Tremain recently published a little ad in the local community paper that outlined how the National government is fighting child poverty by helping vulnerable children, I thought is was about time to once again look at the facts.

 

Tremain was crowing about the govt funding the following:

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

$9.5m over five years ($1.9m/ann) to help the ‘Kick Start Breakfast programme

$1.5m over three years ($0.5m/ann) to help KidsCan charity.

 

This equates to:

$2.4m per year on fighting child poverty.

 

270,000 NZ children living in poverty according to The Children’s Commissioner,

…therefore…

$8.89 per ann per child in poverty is the government’s contribution to fight child poverty.

 

Considering the economic cost of child poverty is estimated to be between $6,000,000,000 to $8,000,000,000 per year, the National government’s claims to be helping vulnerable children seems a little of the mark.

 

The Children’s Commissioners definition of child poverty is:

 

‘Children living in poverty are those who experience deprivation of the material resources and income that is required for them to develop and thrive, leaving such children unable to enjoy their rights, achieve their full potential ad participate as equal members of New Zealand society”

 

So around 25% of NZ children live in households where the family cannot afford the necessities of life because the household income is not sufficient to live on.  This manifests itself in hungry, cold, kids living in overcrowded, unhealthy conditions.

 

Child poverty rates differ significantly by ethnicity, with rates for Maori and Pacifica double that for European children, however, around 50% of children living in poverty are European children, so this is not just a Maori or Pacifica issue.

 

But the great thing is that the Children’s Commissioner believes that child poverty can be significantly reduced.  The bad thing is that it ‘requires political vision, courage and determination’: something that this government has shown very little of so far when dealing with this issue.

 

The Children’s Commissioner’s report titled ‘Solutions to Child Poverty in New Zealand – Evidence in Action’ outlined 78 recommendations to alleviate child poverty.  This report should be the manifesto for all parties in their efforts to alleviate child poverty from this country; wonderful for many, but not quite so for far too many.

 

So has Mr Tremain and the rest of his National government really got anything to crow about?  No.  Quite simply, the government is not doing nearly enough to address this most pressing of issues, and looking after one’s citizens is the core responsibility of every government.  After all, society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable.

 

For more on the Children’s Commissioner’s report on Child Poverty visit the Commission’s website on http://www.occ.org.nz/.  The report is on the middle of the front page.

 

39 COMMENTS

  1. If we want to reduce the number of child in relative poverty
    i.e. the 270,000, we need to ask politicians 4 questions in the lead up to the next election:

    (1) will you increase benefit payments?;
    (2) will you increase the amount of tax credits or similar?;
    (3) will you reduce income tax or gst to low income earners; and
    (4) how will you increase the wages of low income earners at a rate
    higher than higher wage earners? It has to be at a higher rate or
    the maths doesn’t reduce the 270,000 figure.

    These are the only ways we can reduce poverty measured in a relative sense.

    A quick answer to (4) is to increase the minimum wage, but putting
    aside the possible negative displacement effects any increase would also have
    to be at a rate higher than the market increase of those above the
    relative poverty line. Unlikely if the last 20 years is any
    guide? .

    Of course 1,2,and 3 would also need to increase and those employees above the relative poverty level have no pay increases if the 270,000 figure is to reduce.

    The introduction of Working for Families in 2007 triggered a $2
    billion transfer of new money to low income earners … but only
    reduced the relative poverty measure by approx. 2 % … gives a
    insight into the size of the numbers needed to reduce the number of
    people in “relative poverty”.

    Its formost a measure of distribution and only tells a small amount about how well or not parents raise their kids or if their future well being is being compromised and needs additional measures of deprivation and income mobility to move towards being comprehensive. Oh almost forgot, the quickest way to reduce measured relative poverty would be to means test super… which gives a insight into the usefulness of relative poverty measures in isolation!

    • I agree. I very much value the work being done on the living wage campaign (and applaud companies like The Warehouse who have instigated such a plan), however, we must increase the minimum wage in order to ensure that all low wage Kiwis benefit. T

      • agree it’s part of any regulatory mix but its the “easy” answer in many ways and doesnt address long standing issues of low productivity etc. what policies will the improve employment of people currently on benefits and increase the incomes of (low income) workers who must create weath by producing or supplying goods/services which make a profit?

  2. Hi Stuart,

    By the end of the year they are born in, 1 in 5 children will be dependent on a benefit, usually the DPB (soon to become Sole Parent Support). This pattern remains even during good economic times. Two thirds of the children classed as living in poverty live in benefit households. Until this pattern changes, the problem will not go away.

    Those children who are defined as living in poverty but in working households tend to experience transient poverty rather than chronic. It is the second that leads to lifelong disadvantage.

    One of the major reasons the government won’t simply increase benefit levels to lift incomes is the disincentive to work that creates. It’s well-documented that alleviating child poverty via tax redistribution results in more children living in workless homes. The undesirability of children growing up in workless households was the reason your party created the IWTC in 2005.

    So the situation we have in NZ is by no means simple to solve. The good news is though that the teenage birth rate is falling so fewer young women are entering the benefit system as young single mums. Those that do tend to stay there for many years and their children experience some of the greatest hardship.

    • Lindsay, your libertarian/ACT dogma blinds you to the facts.

      By the end of the year they are born in, 1 in 5 children will be dependent on a benefit, usually the DPB (soon to become Sole Parent Support). This pattern remains even during good economic times.

      This is nonsense.

      For one thing, those receiving welfare benefits rose only post 2007/08. Just as unemployment rose to a shocking 11%+ during the recession of the early 1990s.

      The actual numbers underlying this trend are provided in the table below.

      Total numbers of working age recipients of main benefits rose during the Global Financial Crisis and resulting recession;

      (quarterly series – December 2007 – December 2012)

      December 2007 – 269,732

      March 2008 – 255,754

      June 2008 – 258,317

      September 2008 – 269,608

      December 2008 – 286,176

      March 2009 – 288,959

      June 2009 – 310,296

      September 2009 – 326,811

      December 2009 – 345,476

      March 2010 – 324,814

      June 2010 – 332,924

      September 2010 – 338,212

      December 2010 – 352,707

      March 2011 – 331,529

      June 2011 – 327,817

      September 2011 – 328,496

      December 2011 – 350,932

      March 2012 – 322,951

      June 2012 – 320,041

      September 2012 – 320,942

      December 2012 – 339,095

      Movement Dec07 – Dec12: 25.7%

      Movement Dec11 – Dec12: -3.4%

      The above table includes unemployed students receiving an Unemployment Benefit – Student Hardship. Excluding these clients gives the numbers shown in the table below.

      Net Numbers: Working age recipients of main benefits
      excluding Unemployment Benefits – Student Hardship

      December 2007 – 263,316

      December 2011 – 331,687

      December 2012 – 321,000

      Movement Dec07 – Dec12: 21.9%

      Movement Dec11 – Dec12: -3.2%

      Source: MSD – http://www.msd.govt.nz/documents/about-msd-and-our-work/newsroom/factsheets/benefit/2012/december/headline-ben-numbers-dec12.doc

      The same downward movement in the Domestic Purposes Benefit to 2007; and a rise thereafter, can be seen here, in this MSD graph: http://www.msd.govt.nz/documents/about-msd-and-our-work/newsroom/factsheets/benefit/2012/december/fact-sheet-dpb-12-dec-31.doc

      So your claim that,

      By the end of the year they are born in, 1 in 5 children will be dependent on a benefit, usually the DPB (soon to become Sole Parent Support). This pattern remains even during good economic times.

      – is bogus, and nothing more than your ongoing vendetta against the social welfare system and those receiving welfare assistance.

      One of the major reasons the government won’t simply increase benefit levels to lift incomes is the disincentive to work that creates.

      This is the oft-quoted rhetoric from libertarians which, when analysed, also proves to be rubbish.

      Your claim “disincentive to work” ignores the large queues formed where-ever job vacancies are announced. Here are a few examples; http://fmacskasy.wordpress.com/employment-unemployment-fact-sheet-1-queues-for-vacancies/

      Your claim “disincentive to work” ignores the fact that unemployment was low in 2007, at 3.4% – and only increased because of the Global Financial Crisis.

      Punishing the victims of a global recession seems futile and counter-productive. How many beneficiaries sat on the Boards of Wall St; City of London; and elsewhere? Bugger all to none, I’d wager.

      The low rate of welfare assistance payments does not move people off welfare into work. The availability of JOBS moves people off welfare into work. The stats (which you ignore) show this.

      Blaming the welfare system for unemployment is lazy and dishonest. But then, that’s what I’ve come to expect from the Right Wing.

      Oh, except that the Right Wing are more than happy to use the GFC/recession as an excuse when their economic policies continue to fail. Then it’s a valid excuse.

      • Lies, damned lies and statistics, Frank. If you want to refute someone’s claim that 1 in 5 children are being raised on a benefit within a year of birth even in good economic times, you need some figures that address the “1 in 5” part. Figures that show total numbers receiving benefits are irrelevant to your stated aim.

        Likewise, if you want to refute someone’s claim that increasing social welfare benefits is a disincentive to employment, you need a counter-argument that’s actually relevant to the claim. “Lots of people currently want a job” doesn’t meet that criterion. As an example, if you say that increasing fishing quotas will reduce fish stocks, and I say rubbish, just look at all the fish out there, my point is true but irrelevant.

          • Er… your figures tell us nothing about the validity of Lindsay’s claim because they’re unrelated to her claim. Just like Frank’s. Why does this subject bring out such intense misuse of statistics?

            • That’s right Psycho Milt, fluctuations in the number of DPB beneficiaries and the overall amount of impoverished children have no effect on the numbers Mitchell has quoted to back up her claim.

              Here’s something that Mitchell published herself that shows the number of DPB beneficiaries increased by 13.5% between 2006 and 2011. Yet she still claims the 20% of children in poverty who are dependent on a benefit remains the same even during good economic times.

              Perhaps we should ask for some real statistical evidence to back up Lindsay Mitchell’s claim before wasting much more time.

            • Just like Frank’s. Why does this subject bring out such intense misuse of statistics?

              The stats are from MSD. You got a problem – take it up with them. I’m sure they can supply you with a crayon drawing to suit your standards.

              • That’s just silly Frank.

                Jackal, go back and re-read my initial comment.

                The incidence of children becoming welfare dependent by the end of their birth year feeds the child poverty problem. It doesn’t encapsulate it.

                Children in poverty range from 0-17 years. But children who go onto a benefit very young tend to stay there the longest, and so they accumulate in the poverty statistics. Therefore, as long as there are between 1 in 5 and 1 in 4 newborns falling into this category, the poverty problem will persist.

                • I’ve quoted your initial comment a number of times Mitchell, why do you think I need to read it again?

                  First you write; ‘This pattern remains even during good economic times’. Then you write; ‘Therefore, as long as there are between 1 in 5 and 1 in 4 newborns falling into this category, the poverty problem will persist.

                  Although I agree that the earlier the cycle of poverty begins the harder it is to rectify, you have in fact contradicted yourself Lindsay Mitchell. The amount of beneficiary dependent children clearly fluctuates with changes in economic conditions. In effect these people are being punished for circumstances completely out of their control. The 1 in 5 “pattern” doesn’t remain even during good economic times, because in good economic times poverty declines.

                  You now claim this fluctuation is around 5% for children up to the age of one. However you’ve provided no actual statistical evidence to show that’s the case. Instead, the fluctuation is likely be in the vicinity of 19% since 1982.

                  I realise you don’t want to accept that economic conditions are the main cause for an increase in impoverished children and that it’s all about personal choices, but this is clearly not the case.

                  • I’ve quoted your initial comment a number of times Mitchell, why do you think I need to read it again?

                    I expect because you don’t seem to have understood it. She wrote:

                    By the end of the year they are born in, 1 in 5 children will be dependent on a benefit, usually the DPB…This pattern remains even during good economic times.

                    You seem to have misinterpreted this as “1 in 5 children are in a benefit-dependent family at any time” and have set about disproving that. Well done, but disproving a claim your opponent didn’t make is no great feat.

                • Lindsay – have a look at this:

                  http://www.cpag.org.nz/assets/Backgrounders/130402%20CPAG%20Myths%20and%20Facts.pdf

                  Knowing what your one-sided information and views are like, I suppose you will not agree with what CPAG have to say on this.

                  I know that I rather trust them than you.

                  As you probably also fully support the mean and hypocritical policies introduced under this government, and pushed for by Paula Bennett, I can only express my strong dislike for your views.

                  Next week the most draconian, mean-spirited, inhumane, harsh, in part even illegal welfare “reforms” come into force. Social obligations come before feeding hungry kids of poor parents in schools. That is what this government stands for. Much talk, lecturing, punishing, stigmatising and pressuring, and little heart, fairness and truly effective, inclusive measures, that is what we get.

                  Instead of punishing poor on benefits, effective support, a higher minimum wage, also benefits people can reasonably survive on, that should be the approach.

                  Encouraging sole parents with a training incentive allowance, and with job creation in a sustainable, more diversified, and more productive higher skilled economy, that may offer real incentives, rather than selling logs, milk-powder, raw fish and the likes for others to add value.

                  Dumb government leads to dumb outcomes, and blaming the ones at the bottom for this is unfair.

              • The stats are from MSD.

                Yes, the stats that are irrelevant to the claim you’re trying to refute are from a very trustworthy source. I’ve italicised the significant part of that sentence, since that’s the part you seem to have trouble figuring out.

    • Teenage females with sharp educated minds do not generally end up pregnant and on the DPB – yet the government is destroying the education system so the not so sharp of mind will never have a chance to change their futures so don’t expect this demographic to muster up unfeasible ambition for decent careers that oh by the way are also being decreased in number by the same government – any government with the best interests of a civilised society in mind would focus on mass job creation but if that is to taxing on their intelligence they should increase social welfare help – with both of these aspects in deficit say goodbye to any kind of reasonable future for NZ

    • Don’t know about you Lindsay but, I’d rather have kids on welfare than pick up the dead bodies. When men treat their partners and families like a punching bag – we are left with few options. Were are your prestigious families then – to many times the families of violent males support them, (anecdotal working on coal face evidence here) and they won’t offer support to the women nor the children – and by support I mean the basics to live, housing and food . We have a culture were men bash and walk away – and quite frankly it sucks.

      I am seriously against dolism, some on this site will be nodding there heads at this point – I don’t like the welfare system nor the state handing out a living wage. I don’t trust the state, the state does nothing for free and the strings are usually nasty. That said – we have it, and holding nose – we need it. I want it gone, but to blame the people who have no power and no other options but to use welfare is nasty, narrow minded and lacking imagination.

      Real solutions not slogans is what we need. Real jobs with real wages and shift in culture.

  3. increasing benefit levels will not lead to more people on them. the way to reduce the number of people on benefits is to pay them more and lift the minimin wage to something reasonable as these people will spend everything that they earn in the economy thereby increasing demand in goods and services thereby increasing the number of employment opportunities. the number of people on a benefit goes down when there are jobs available just look back to the Clark led years(unemployment was down to 35000 or so )nobody wants to live in poverty on a benefit country to right wing thought. there may be exceptions but this is not the norm

      • Frank, I’ve updated the post with the full OIA. I don’t know what you think I am trying to hide or manufacture. Similar information is available through MSD published research.

        Anne, Your contention about the education system being “destroyed” is inconsistent with the teenage birth rate falling.

        Adam, Women need an out from violent relationships. Agreed. But the other side of your scenario is, a relatively secure income and home also make young mothers a target for ill-intentioned, poorly motivated types. In this sense the DPB is both friend and foe. WINZ even tacitly condones women living with violence by judging them eligible for a single parent benefit if the presence of violent or emotional abuse negates a relationship that can be legally defined as “after the nature of marriage.”

        • Lindsay Mitchell, your claim that 1 in 5 children are dependent on a benefit and that this figure doesn’t change when economic conditions change, is clearly incorrect.

          Ignoring your own evidence that the number of children in the care of beneficiary recipients aged 16 to 19 has declined by 22% from 2005 to 2012 doesn’t do your argument any good. These younger caregivers are usually poorer. There is however an increase within older age groups of DPB caregivers, who just happen to be better financially off.

          There has also been an increase of 13.5% in the overall amount of DPB beneficiaries between 2006 and 2011, which effectively makes your claim that the amount of impoverished children from beneficiary families has remained the same incorrect.

        • What the hell does the state of the education system have to do with the teenage birthrate falling – the NZ education system is currently is undergoing annihilation in many areas which WILL adversely affect those future attendees who aren’t naturally inclined toward brilliance (the phrase ‘falling through the cracks’ comes to mind) – its all quite logical if you think about it

        • Sorry missed out a question mark before posting:

          What the hell does the state of the education system have to do with the teenage birthrate falling?…

    • Lindsay, I’ve seen the graphs you requested from MSD.

      I also note you asked for figures relating to years 2005, 2006, and 2007.

      Why is that?

      Why did you not request data from 2000 to 2012?

      • Frank, Because I already had the years covering 2008 – 2011 from previous OIAs, and indicative data from the nineties was in the MSD link I gave you. Quoting,

        “The proportion included in a benefit at birth or very soon after fell from around 25% of children born in the 1990s to 20% of children born in 2005 and 2006 and 18% of children born in 2007. Although contact with the benefit system fell, as many as one in five children turning 15 in 2008 are estimated to have been supported by a main benefit for a total of seven or more of their first 14 years of life. An estimated one in ten spent a total of 11 or more of their first 14 years supported by a main benefit.”

        Anne, I initially wrote, “The good news is though that the teenage birth rate is falling so fewer young women are entering the benefit system as young single mums.”

        You responded, “Teenage females with sharp educated minds do not generally end up pregnant and on the DPB – yet the government is destroying the education system so the not so sharp of mind will never have a chance to change their futures.”

        Now you are saying, “What the hell does the state of the education system have to do with the teenage birthrate falling.”

        Jackal, The number of children born onto a benefit directly or soon thereafter has fluctuated between 1 in 4/ 1 in 5 over the last 20 years. In 2007, when NZ unemployment was the lowest in the OECD, the figure dropped to 18 percent. Just under 1 in 5.

        The rest of your argument bears no relation to my initial comment.

        • Jackal, The number of children born onto a benefit directly or soon thereafter has fluctuated between 1 in 4/ 1 in 5 over the last 20 years. In 2007, when NZ unemployment was the lowest in the OECD, the figure dropped to 18 percent. Just under 1 in 5.

          So you accept that employment/unemployment is a factor on the numbers on welfare and in poverty?

          If so this is not something you readily make clear in your constant attacks on the welfare system.

  4. increasing benefit levels will not lead to more people on them.

    Paying more for something won’t get you more of it? Are you quite sure about that? Oh, I see, you have an argument to support it:

    the way to reduce the number of people on benefits is to pay them more and lift the minimin wage to something reasonable as these people will spend everything that they earn in the economy thereby increasing demand in goods and services thereby increasing the number of employment opportunities.

    No, hang on, this is more “true, but irrelevant” stuff. It doesn’t actually support your claim. Oh wait, here’s the argument:

    the number of people on a benefit goes down when there are jobs available just look back to the Clark led years(unemployment was down to 35000 or so ).

    This one actually is an argument in support of your claim. However, there are two problems with it:

    1. It’s the numbers on unemployment benefit that fall dramatically when jobs are easy to come by. We’re talking child poverty, for which the major benefit involved is the DPB – that proved much more resistant to falling in the mid-2000s.

    2. It tells us fewer people will draw benefits when there is plenty of work available, but doesn’t address the question of whether increasing benefits would militate against that trend.

    • Paying more for something won’t get you more of it? Are you quite sure about that? Oh, I see, you have an argument to support it

      Do you have evidence against it?

      Because even if you raise the unemployment rate from $206.21 (p/w, net, single person, over 25) to, say, $300 – the minimum wage – $472.60 – is still better in terms of income. Not much, I grant you, but it pays the bills.

      The only barrier to jobs, Milt – and I’ll make this plain as I can – is a LACK OF JOBS.

      We’re talking child poverty, for which the major benefit involved is the DPB

      Do you have evidence for that? Or are you just repeating what you’ve heard?

      Child poverty also affects low INCOME families. Where the bread-winner is on minimum wage, or doing several jobs, and paying a higher Secondary Tax.

      It tells us fewer people will draw benefits when there is plenty of work available, but doesn’t address the question of whether increasing benefits would militate against that trend.

      But in times of less work, it means people can survive until the economy picks up.

      Because as sure as evolution made li’l green apples, there ain’t much point in grinding people down; destroying their work readiness; and sending them spiralling into depression due to a debilitatingly low welfare support.

      Until you’ve tried to survive on $206.21 a week, you haven’t got a clue, Milt.

      • Do you have evidence against it?

        Basic supply-and-demand, Frank. If we offer to pay more for beneficiaries, we should expect more beneficiaries. Someone who thinks that obvious and predictable result wouldn’t occur in this case is the one with an evidential shortfall to make up.

        Because even if you raise the unemployment rate from $206.21 (p/w, net, single person, over 25) to, say, $300 – the minimum wage – $472.60 – is still better in terms of income.

        So? No-one is claiming that increasing benefits would make having a job worthless, they’re claiming it’s a disincentive factor – there’s a difference.

        Do you have evidence for that? Or are you just repeating what you’ve heard?

        Er, what? Were you under the impression that perhaps unemployment benefit was the major one involved in child poverty? Sickness benefit, perhaps?

        Child poverty also affects low INCOME families.

        Something which, thus far, no-one has disputed.

        Until you’ve tried to survive on $206.21 a week, you haven’t got a clue, Milt.

        I’ve done time on a benefit, Frank. That’s one reason I don’t idealise the recipients as fodder for stirring rhetoric. You should try it yourself.

        • Basic supply-and-demand, Frank. If we offer to pay more for beneficiaries, we should expect more beneficiaries.

          Really, Milt?

          Do you have evidence to back up that assertion?

          Because if that were true – which it is not – then please explain why unemployment DROPPED to 3.4% by 2007 – and rose to 7.3% by November last year?!

          If it’s “supply & demand” as you suggest, there should be a steady rise upward, as the Benefit is increased according to unflation.

          The only “supply and demand” is jobs. More jobs = lower unemployment.

          So? No-one is claiming that increasing benefits would make having a job worthless, they’re claiming it’s a disincentive factor – there’s a difference.

          Your “disincentive factor” is based on your own beliefs and prejudices – not suopported by facts, as I outlined above.

          I’ve done time on a benefit, Frank… You should try it yourself.

          You’re assuming quite a bit there, Milt.

          All I’ll say is that the BEST thing about the unemployment benefit is getting off it. If, as you claim, you’ve been on it, you’ll know what I mean.

          That’s one reason I don’t idealise the recipients as fodder for stirring rhetoric.

          *facepalm* Surely you’re not conflating “idealisation” with empathy.

          • Do you have evidence to back up that assertion?

            You mean, apart from every economics textbook ever written? No, not really.

            If it’s “supply & demand” as you suggest, there should be a steady rise upward, as the Benefit is increased according to unflation.

            I’m pretty sure most readers of this thread will be able to figure out why inflation-adjusting benefits isn’t the same thing as “increasing” them. Beneficiaries certainly know the difference.

            Surely you’re not conflating “idealisation” with empathy.

            Nope. Not even slightly.

  5. Completely agree as someone who has suffered chronic poverty I know how much it can mess you up for the entirety of your life something needs to be done but it seems like there is too much money to be had in keeping people poor and stupid so politicians won’t do any more than offer a few token gestures with big impressive numbers attached while they turn around and allow more pokie machines, the scourge of the poor.
    I reckon for most low income earners by the time you pay your rent and power (the two absolute must haves) you have next to nothing left so for low income earners I think your rent and power should be paid by social welfare, doing this alone I reckon would increase the average wage by at the very least $400 without actually giving anyone anymore money.
    Or better yet take power generation and distribution off the avaristic w@#$%rs who have proved they can’t be trusted with the privilege and figure out a way to make rent more affordable (capital gains tax or two houses per person or something) and bring prices back within a livable level.

Comments are closed.