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:
$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,
$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.