Fancy taking children seriously

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Poverty-in-NZ

Let’s see why all political parties should pay close attention to the Green Party’s policy for children.
First, it is a comprehensive attempt to put children, not ideology, at the heart of family policy. Wow, children at the heart of family policy? What a refreshing thought!

Second, they are taking child poverty and its costs seriously. Eyes have been opened to the devastating impact on society of third world diseases, school underachievement and social exclusion. Perhaps our society does not have a death wish after all.

The Green’s policy will give all children in low income families the same access to tax-funded child payments, including extra support for newborns. This will cost $400m+per annum, but is highly targeted to the poorest only. Gosh, this policy is truly cost-effective, and no child in other families will be worse off. What could be better?

CPAG took a 10 year battle through the courts against the exclusion of 230,000 of the poorest children from tax-funded In WorkTax Credit that has as one of its goals to reduce child poverty.
The Courts ruled that the In Work Tax Credit constitutes discrimination. This ruling requires the high test of there being material harm from this policy. But then, the courts failed to deliver justice for the 230,000 children left out by declaring it unlawful. Many of these children have been left in serious poverty.

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So it needed a visionary politician to grasp the enormity of this abysmal discrimination and act decisively even if it means asking for a little sacrifice for those with plenty.

The discrimination over 10 years of Working for Families has resulted in the sucking of around $5 billion out of the budgets of the poorest families. No wonder we see such distress. The widening of the income and wealth distribution is not just the rich getting richer it is the poor getting cumulatively more debt in a potentially explosive cycle.

Unfortunately our society is now so conditioned to a ‘work first’ approach that we are already seeing deep suspicion of the Green’s proposals. Thus commentator Lindsay Mitchell tut-tuts from the right that by giving the poorest families the in work tax credit will remove their incentive to work. Really? Will giving families enough to live on without going into a downwards spiral of debt, begging at foodbanks for the basics, queuing at WINZ for a grudgingly given Temporary Additional Support payment blunt the incentive to work if and when they can? Of course not. There are many other ways to help parents when they go to work without using policy that damages children.

The $400m or so will help support local poor communities and reduce the inefficiency and time wasted associated with families chasing charity top-ups.

Lindsay Mitchell says she likes the free 20 hours for 2 year olds so the mums can get to work. In the ideology of the right, work is the answer to everything. Surely it is not always appropriate for women to work when their youngest child is just two.

In fact the Greens have framed the policy so that it gives choice to women if they want to study, or volunteer, or work part time, or simply have a break for a few hours. There is no intent to provide this assistance only for children of parents in paid work and thus it is again fair and non-discriminatory.
Of course parents are the best to know whether this care is good for their toddler and to make the choice accordingly. Children’s needs first- what a breath of fresh air.

Let’s hope Labour will support the reform of Working for Families as set out by the Greens. They need to go further than their Best Start policy and work to basing family policies on the interests of children not just paid work.

 

21 COMMENTS

  1. The thing people seem not to understand is a well raised healthy kid equals a functioning contributing adult.

  2. The present economic system can only function by destroying the futures of the all children in the world (yes, including those living in NZ), and by manipulating the media to ensure that none of the issues which are destroying the future are ever discussed in the mainstream media.

    Global oil extraction peaked several years ago, and the system is being propped up in the short term by highly environmentally destructive practices such as fracking, deep-water drilling and extracting oil from tar sands at horrendous environmental cost. It is only the implosion of numerous economies overseas, leading to demand destruction, that is suppressing oil prices to ridiculously low levels.

    Continued use of oil (and other fossil fuels) leads to ever higher global temperatures and ever greater climate chaos, which in turn ruins habitat and impacts on food production (Califorrnia is now in its worst drought ever). Every day the madness of fossil fuel consumption continues the amount of easily resource diminishes and the environmental catastrophe worsens. And then there is ocean acidification due to CO2 emissions, which will eventually terminate life as we know it on this planet.

    Additionally, the global financial system is a gigantic Ponzi scheme which ahs resulted in unrepayable debts almost everywhere. It is the children who have been landed with this monster.

    The loot-and-pollute economy, is, by definition, unsustainable, and is rapidly headed for collapse, via resource depletion, environmental collapse and unravelling of Ponzi economics and Ponzi finance.

    You won’t hear about any of that from the liars who constitute parliament and the bureaucracy, just a lot of nonsense about ‘a better, brighter future for our children’, and other lies.

    People living in any place where hot water comes out of a tap are living a life of luxury not enjoyed by the vast majority of humans on this planet.

    And people brought up in countries were energy-squandering has been the norm for decades have no idea what poverty is But they soon will, since the present system, a peculiar short-term aberration, is completely unsustainable and is in the early stages of collapse.

    • At last someone else who can see the ‘bigger picture’.
      This is all about energy (or for the sake of an easier conversation, ‘cheap oil’). Read about NETT ENERGY, or EROEI to get better educated about the real issues of Peak Oil.
      The monetary ponzi scheme is the way the uber wealthy transfer money, from the poor to themselves. And when the poor are ‘suitable’ impoverished and become their much needed slave labour, watch out you middle class snoozers (happily voting for the right wing, that are setting this up for their bosses) as you’ll be next in line……………….as there is no way the uber wealthy will take a lower standard of living, nor attack one another (excluding the odd ‘settling of old scores’).
      So you’ve been warned people. The cake is NOT going to get bigger, save statistical fiddles, so stop accepting the trickle down theory will eventually work (it’s been 40 years and it’s still not happened…..how long do you idiotic middle class right wing voters need before you realise you’re being played for the fool you are proving to be, en-block????).
      So let’s start diving the existing cake up FAIRLY and set up a system that’ll make it better for the vast majority of Kiwis, for when this shit storm does hit the fan, ………….within the next ten years and quite likely within five.

  3. Jacinda Adern admits aingst for our children in poverty only to told by Paula Bennet ” your weak”. Sums it up really.

  4. Very well said Susan.

    Because of this “we care” policy from the Green party, they are going to get both my votes now. I had been wandering between Labour, Green, and IMP, but now I know for sure.

    If the other parties had any ‘real’ care thoughts about our poorest children they would have tabled them too – but they haven’t. I love this Robin Hood attitude that the Greens are displaying towards child poverty real action.

    So, Im hoping that Greens will win this election and buddy up with the game-changing IMP, and leave Labour slightly on the back foot, so that Labour will be forced to accept a coalition government on Green Party terms, rather than the other way round.

    I like the ‘mumsiness’ of Metiria Turei, and I love that she is Maori too. I believe that Metiria and Russell Norman work very well together – they both look happy, and have ready and real smiles.
    I also like the strength of Laila Harre, and the way she speaks.

    NZ population is top heavy with women, so a woman leader will be exactly right – or rather left.

    Opinion.

  5. Excellent post, Susan St John:

    “So it needed a visionary politician to . . . ”

    Yep, the ‘business round table’, and all those other nat-acolyte economic lobby groups out there, will be quick to raise the usual collection of knee-jerk reactions. “Its bad for THE economy”, they will say. What they mean is “Its bad for THEIR economy.”

    And, ” it will kill investment in NZ inc.”, they will say. “Jobs will go offshore”, they will say. We’ve heard it all before, and its all bullshit.

    There are, of course, alternatives to the out-dated, totally FAILING economic theory that they and similar groups subscribe to.
    You know, the “trickle down” approach, the “free market”, and all that other crap they foisted upon us from way before the 1970’s onwards.

    All of their criticism of anything that is even remotely visionary in economics is designed to preserve the staus quo. That is, its all designed to ensure that NOTHING changes in the application of outmoded, old-fashioned, widely-discredited economic theory to Government economic policy in NZ. Key’s their man!

    Try googling “new economic theory” for a start, if you don’t believe me:

    http://www.neweconomictheory.org/

    And while you are at it, take a look at how GDP – the cornerstone of the Nats’ economic policy, is actually CALCULATED. Its a total farce!

  6. Time and time again, the right push this idea of working 20 hours a week.

    First, where are these jobs?

    Look on Seek or Trademe. Look for Part-time work. These jobs are in rest homes, in homes of those with intellectual conditions or whole disabilities (known as global disabilities) and in the cleaning arena. Most of these jobs require overnight work, part-shifts (ie, 5 to 7am, then 3 to 7pm) and often multi-locations (be available whenever, wherever we tell you!)

    Secondly, who becomes employed into these jobs?

    People who are able to float across towns and fit the hourly criteria. People without much experience in the field and youth.

    If you are incapable of covering these hours, travelling all over large areas or have issues with mobility, you’re f*cked. You will not get a return email. You will not get a phone call. And you will not get hired.

    Thirdly, who covers the childcare costs?

    The mother. Because her benefit or her tax credits come down to HER working. Child Care is seen as the cost paid by the permanent caregiver. Sure there are some payments made from the father, unless he isn’t named.

    Do you know how hard it is to get a child into care? Wait lists. Applications. High fees.

    So you take the cheaper route of in home care. Your ‘nanny’ or education provider is a crap shoot. There are some remarkable ones out there. There are also some really horrible ones.

    Or you go for the ‘free’ option of having a neighbour or elderly relative look after your children. There is no education benefit. And how many children have died in these circumstances?

    Or you just leave the kids at home to fend for themselves. As the right wing says: Our parents did it and we suffered no harm!

    Fourthly, where are these jobs?

    There aren’t many. And there aren’t nearly as many suited to the idea of a ‘working poor mother’. In fact, there are NO jobs for the working poor mother.

    There are no jobs for the visibly ill. There are no jobs for people who truthfully explain their living, working or childcare situation. Employers get to pick and they don’t pick the sick, the ones with kids or the ones with experience.

    • and why is it when mothers stay at home to look after their children they are said to be “not working”

      but when they leave their kids in someone else’s care and go out into paid work the person who looks after the kid is working

      and this whole argument assumes that what is best for children of the poor is that their parents are not the ones to look after them, but someone else is

    • Down votes? Let me guess? Right wing National party voter?

      Let me guess — “Only people who are willing to look after their own children should have children.”

      You know what, I agree with you. That’s the one issue that keeps me from voting Green year after year after year.

      I have 1 child. Not because I wanted an only child — I wanted 4. Two girls then two boys.

      I have 1 child because I became very ill following a ‘medical mismanagement’. That’s what, under National, malpractice is now called.

      I needed 3 back to back surgeries, with 2 haemorrhaging episodes between them, after the first surgeon F’ed up. She admitted she F’ed up. Then retracted her statement.

      After the 3rd surgery, I became septic, you know, that highly critical death imminent thing, and the doctor on call gave me IV antibiotics I was orange banded as allergic to. The DHB called it ‘medical mismanagement’ and because I wasn’t willing to spend 36 months with a lawyer and in and out of court, ACC will cover nothing.

      I went from on top of the world to unable to walk, feed myself or toilet myself. The hospital paid for ZERO of my recovery or physio therapy. Again, see that pesky lawyer thing.

      We had wanted a big family. We have 1 child.

      Because it is all we can afford, mentally, emotionally and financially.

      But it doesn’t always happen this way. I was a planned pregnancy, but not all are.

      Some of my most dearest friends were ‘oops’ and were born at a time when the country provided for them.

      My husbands parents became unemployed in the 80s, with 4 very wanted children. And the government helped them onto their feet. They went on to own a business for many years.

      I believe blanket, bandaid monetary aid is not the key. But also don’t believe in these jobs National keeps pushing. ACT seems to believe there are even more available than National.

      Being sick, I’ve met lots of other sick people, be it in hospital waiting rooms, in hospital wards, support groups, etc and time after time they tell me the same story: I didn’t expect to get sick. I didn’t expect to lose everything. I didn’t expect to be forced into work which I can’t do. I didn’t expect to be hungry and cold.

      And sadly, I’ve met a lot of sick kids. The waiting room at the lab is full of them. And their parents say the same thing. We never expected this to happen. We’ve lost so much.

      And that’s where the greenie in me kicks in — you shouldn’t be penalised when you become ill. You shouldn’t be penalised when life rips the rug out from under you.

      You shouldn’t be kicked when you’re already down and trying so damn hard to get back up.

      Blanket financial aid isn’t the key or the ‘cure’. Better systems. Better systems with REAL people as caseworkers — in hospital, in offices. Under National the ability to see the same caseworker was revoked. You’re to cycle through WINZ agents.

      One WINZ agent might understand what malignancy means — another has no f’ing clue and is paid by the hour and honestly, they just don’t give a f*ck.

      I had a WINZ agent tell me that I looked ok. I don’t have a limp or need crutches (anymore!!) so I “don’t need help, eh?”

      Let’s put that additional finance into people in the correct ways.

      Let’s prove that additional finances help people make better choices, but let’s do it in a way that empowers EVERYONE who walks through the door.

      • Yes Jguest.
        Life ends up like this for many. Unforeseen disasters in our paths.

        I really want and need to know, why aren’t the media or the political journalists tackling the other 2 great big elephants in the room.

        Child poverty looks to be covered by the Green party.

        That leaves the abominations that are WINZ and ACC – meaning all the employees and contractors and consultants and so-called medical ‘professionals’ that work for them, and gobble up more money than they actually pay out to the people they are employed to help.

        Oh for the elephant trainer with his stick, to sort these all out.

        Opinion.

        • To be honest, I’ve never had an issue with ACC caseworkers. I understand the legal and medical limitations that are put onto them. Often the caseworker has no understanding of the legal verbatim they have to rattle off to you. When you query them, they honestly cannot explain the words they just said.

          For me, and like you commented, it’s all those who are in the middle.

          When ACC refer you to the hospital, it suddenly becomes a land mine.

          Have you ever hurt that body part before? Well yes, who hasn’t? If you’ve lived over 30 years, you’re likely to have banged your knee or been involved in some sort of traumatic crash to the body, be it sport, automotive or simply mechanical failure + gravity.

          Oh, the doctor will say. I can’t help you then.

          But… “I can’t help you. I legally cannot help you. No one will get paid if I do.”

          Surely that’s a breach of the oath doctors take. Or a breach of policy DHBs present to the community. Or a breach of human rights?

          “We can’t help you if you have a case open against the hospital.”

          But you nearly killed me. Twice!!

          “Sorry. You’re closest option is either Kaikoura, Christchurch or Nelson hospital. We can’t help you.”

          But it’s 10pm and I’m bleeding.

          “Sorry.”

          I don’t believe ACC and WINZ were set up to be monsters. To visibly delight in turning people away. But that’s how they’ve become.

          If I were well enough, I’d want to plan a march from the top of the North to the bottom of the South. To show the country HOW MANY PEOPLE get screwed over by ACC, WINZ and the hospital system.

          I know too many to list.

          Who are tax payers who pay into this system daily with the hours they work.

          Even worse are the medical staff who are injured ON SITE.

          ACC will often refuse medical assistance because the hospital can query whether or not they were practicing safe occupational standards.

          You’re not supposed to run in the hall.

          “But my patient was coding!”

          You’re not supposed to run in the hall. Case denied.

          Can we get Mr. Hager involved in this please?

  7. Look at the comprehensive household economic surveys that show that those on the lowest incomes are also spending the highest proportion of that income on alcohol, fast food and cigarettes. Throwing additional money, and adopting a free market ethos, that the parents of at risk children will automatically make the best spending choices, is naive at best, counterproductive at worst.

    This policy is poorly researched, and grossly lacking in detail. The greens have an opportunity to do something revolutionary, instead they have opted for a simplistic wealth redistribution band aid that will do nothing to help at risk children.

    • @ Teatatutim:

      What a load of crap! You can’t honestly believe what you just wrote. Incredible.

      Go the Greens and IMP and Labour.

      And FJK!

      Opinion.

    • Link to those comprehensive surveys…. and then we can check your rhetoric for ourselves, as well as how the surveys were conducted and who did them.

      Too many consultants fees have been spent by this government to prove their already decided upon policy. The use of right-wing think tanks to provide surveys is manipulation at best, abhorrent at worst.

    • @Teatatutim:

      …..” alcohol, fast food and cigarettes.”

      While the rich spend theirs on tax evasion, caviar, and champagne, and fast cars, and consultants, and dentists, and face-lifts and botox, and grande soirees, and heating their over-sized spa pools, holidays in luxury resorts, and private education and hospitals! While 280000 NZ children go to bed, and school hungry!

      opinion.

      • All the literature, including the economic survey (anyone can view this via the website) point to the same conclusion. A comprehensive New Zealand study that also incorporated the child poverty action group (CHILDREN IN POOR FAMILIES: DOES THE SOURCE OF FAMILY INCOME CHANGE THE PICTURE), found that;

        “To summarise, the findings show that poor children reliant on government transfers, when compared with poor children reliant on market incomes, have lower living standards and a number of compounding shortfalls that can be expected to place them at greater risk of negative outcomes. The findings suggest a need for policies that have a wider focus than just income support. Such an expanded policy focus would incorporate recognition of the multiple sources of disadvantage of many of these children, and would explore mechanisms designed to connect parents and children to services directed at reducing the likelihood of negative child outcomes”

        Take a read, it will do you good and broaden your horizons beyond entrenched capitalist prejudices around money being the solution to all problems.

        • Teatatutim:

          You could have a good read of the Green policy – all of it. Its a very good read, and covers all bases extremely well.

          • I have read their policy on children, it is very weak on detail and mentions nothing about adequately resourcing CYFS. The parts about adoption in particular are counterproductive, the major flaw with the current system is that when children are seriously abused, CYFS are obligated to place them with other family members. When abuse is typically systemic across the entire Whanau due to it’s cyclical nature.

            If you read that study, it shows that employment, even at the same low income level of a beneficiary, creates better outcomes for children.

    • TeAtatuTim says:
      August 19, 2014 at 12:20 pm

      Look at the comprehensive household economic surveys that show that those on the lowest incomes are also spending the highest proportion of that income on alcohol, fast food and cigarettes.

      […]

      This policy is poorly researched, and grossly lacking in detail. The greens have an opportunity to do something revolutionary, instead they have opted for a simplistic wealth redistribution band aid that will do nothing to help at risk children.

      Do you have alink for those “comprehensive household economic surveys”, TeAtatuTim ? Or do we just take your word for it?

      As for the “greens have an opportunity to do something revolutionary” – I look forward to what that “something” might be?

  8. Redistribution mechanism rarely last. Once established ,progressive taxes,social securities, safety nets,minimum wages,and all other mechanisms of redistribution can be and usually undermined.The last 40yrs starkly illustrate the undoing of redistribution.2,redistribution is socially divisive,often extremely so.One of the reasons for this is the way taxes are viewed.In N.Z. we issue our own currency,and the govt.is not revenue constrained like it was under the Bretton Woods system which collapsed in 1971.Since there we have operated as though it still exits which has led to stagnation and increased poverty.Whether this has been done through ignorance or been deliberate is a moot point.Suffice to say that unemployment has been used as a weapon of mass destruction and deception.All policy makers, commentators.economist,and politicians have been responsible for this crime against humanity.This has led to people believing that their taxes actually pay for things which they do not share in.I know my taxes do not pay for anything per se.Taxes function to give our currency value, control aggregate demand,but importantly, function to give the govt. space to carry out its spending program in a non inflationary way.Since unemployment is always a monetary phenomena, it is a good indicator of over taxation! Redistribution is costly.Govt. bureaucracies intrude on ones privacy and quickly became objects of influence peddling , at and abuse.A better solution would be predistribution.This could take several different routes.1 Tax things make us all poorer.So getting rid of gst,giving tax free income up to $50,000.Tax land,unearned income,rentiers,capital gains etc. Set up a govt.guarenteed job at a living wage.Set up worker self directed enterprises.Basically we need to rid ourselves of our own self deceptions and base our economy on human rights.

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