The findings of the latest Superu Families and Whānau status report, provide clear evidence that addressing one issue at a time will not significantly improve the situation for many children who are living with the effects of income poverty, says Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).
Associate Professor Mike O’Brien, CPAG’s social security spokesperson, says the report highlights that poverty remains a major issue for many families and needs to be actively and positively addressed if families are to be well-supported.
“A comprehensive approach to supporting families needs to be developed across a range of fields. The narrow current social investment approach will not do that. If we are serious about giving all children the best possible opportunities in life, then a more inclusive and comprehensive social investment approach is needed, one which will provide services and programmes which all families can draw on as required.”
CPAG says that policies must be designed with the needs of the whole family at the heart, including income support for parents.
Targeted funding for a specific few children based on ‘risks’, without addressing poverty as the root cause of deprivation and poor outcomes, means many children experiencing poverty without experiencing two or more of the defining risk factors may miss out on crucial support. As the Superu report indicates, while “some families who face multiple challenges go on to have positive outcomes, other families struggle to address these challenges.”
That single parents are among those who face the most disadvantage proves more support should be provided to those struggling to raise children on welfare benefits. Work hours that do not meet their needs may mean they are denied support from Working for Families, in the In-Work Tax Credit portion that they may not be eligible to receive.
Struggling couples with young children have greater housing disadvantage, highlighting the crippling effects of paying market rental prices on reduced income, when social housing is not an available option.
Not surprisingly, families do better when they have a supportive extended family network, but in order to ensure that extended families are well placed to be supportive, they too need to be well-resourced, and with many families now with grandparents still working into later years or retiring into poverty, it is crucial that parents are well-supported by welfare and tax credits to ensure all their children’s needs are met adequately.
“It is clear that stability and community are important for families and family support. Moving house continuously seriously thwarts the ability for families to find a supportive community network. The current failure to tackle housing affordability and availability creates enormous disruption for children and families. This needs to be addressed immediately,” says O’Brien.
The Superu report states, “Healthy individuals in healthy families are at the heart of a healthy society.” As such, it is crucial that the Government responds with real solutions to improving the lives of families where the children are experiencing severe disadvantage.
CPAG is releasing a series of policy priority papers outlining recommendations to improve New Zealand’s healthcare, education, welfare and housing systems. CPAG says that implementing these recommendations will substantially reduce the worst child poverty and improve the lives of all low-income families with children, and meanwhile contribute to a reduction in hospital admissions of children with poverty-related illnesses.