Six groups working at the front line of child poverty say the next government needs to show it is serious about tackling the issue by meeting with them as soon as possible and making it a top priority.
Prime Minister-elect Christopher Luxon has committed to keeping the Child Poverty Reduction Act (2018) and halving child poverty by 2028.
But the groups say this will take a concerted effort in several areas, and none of the parties about to take power have revealed exactly how they plan to do this.
The groups, which have written an open letter calling for an urgent meeting, are: Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), Methodist Alliance, Presbyterian Support New Zealand, Methodist Mission Northern, NZ Council of Christian Social Services and the Paediatric Society of New Zealand.
“We heard very little about child poverty during the election campaign, but the problems are real for many families,” CPAG convener Alan Johnson said. “Overcoming poverty by redesigning important policies is how we create a future in which we thrive together.”
A record almost half a million Kiwis each month rely on food handouts from charity. This will increase at Christmas. Food parcels are not the answer. Our whole food system is broken, and kids are suffering, Mr Johnson said.
“One in five Kiwi kids live in a household that regularly runs out of food. Their families can’t afford the vital nutrients to enable them to grow up and be healthy, productive adults.”
Te Whatu Ora statistics this month show hospital admissions for babies and preschoolers for preventable illnesses are up more than 30 percent since June 2022.
“The reality is that right now, our economic and retail systems are restricting many families who only want the best for their children. This makes overcoming child poverty the decent and compassionate thing to do,” Mr Johnson said.
“Increasing food parcels is not the answer, tax cuts are not the answer, and neither are social supermarkets. We are calling for a bold approach to fix our broken system. A system under corporate control in which quality food is over-regulated, and inferior food is under-regulated. A system which results in food scarcity for most the most vulnerable children and their families.
“Our tamariki are our future, but for that to be true, they need to live good lives now, without the burden of poverty.”
The organisations want Mr Luxon to meet with them, and forge a working relationship with him, and regularly check the pulse of the problem as he does with other lobby groups such as the business and farming communities.
In the words of the late Richie Poulton, Director of the Dunedin Study, there is one thing above all that prevents children from developing into healthy and happy adults: poverty.
“You can’t really undo what happens during childhood. So the experience of intense or regular poverty is long-lasting …What do we need to address really importantly, really importantly? Poverty.” – Richie Poulton
The groups have created a petition to show the incoming government how much New Zealanders care about children in poverty and to put pressure on them to meet with the groups on the front lines of the issue.