When are we going to see action to tackle child poverty?
The latest report on child poverty (Child Poverty Monitor, Children’s Commissioner) would be no surprise to anyone. It seems every year the findings of highly-researched studies are released and they…
The latest report on child poverty (Child Poverty Monitor, Children’s Commissioner) would be no surprise to anyone.
It seems every year the findings of highly-researched studies are released and they all point out what we already know. The studies give weight to what teachers, principals, health professionals, budgeting advisors and so on have been saying for a long time – that child poverty is getting deeper and more entrenched.
And behind the reports and statistics are real stories and the effect that ongoing poverty has on our country’s children. They are the victims of government policies that have fuelled 40 years of growing inequity in this country pushing hundreds of thousands of children into poverty.
Merivale School principal Jan Tinetti says she’s sick of the lack of answers and obfuscation from the beehive and policy makers and the wilful lack of real action to deal with a shameful situation.
Along with long term consequences of lower educational achievement, unemployment, reduced lifetime opportunities and earnings as well as poorer health is the psychological effect that poverty has on children.
Jan Tinetti says that children living in poverty know they do, they know they’re being judged on the back of poverty, and they start to lose belief in themselves.
She talks of seeing children arriving at school seriously stressed and ready to explode at the slightest provocation.
It’s heart-breaking that she dare not ask children at her school what they got for their birthday because the chances are they got nothing. One child, she says, didn’t even know it was his birthday.
Jan points out that individuals and local businesses are increasingly stepping in to help plug obvious gaps. Things like local businesses providing Christmas presents for children in low income schools. For many this year it will be the only present they get.
But is the growth of charity another signal of a growing acceptance of a poverty-stricken underclass in our society and the lack of government action? Surely what are needed are real solutions such as living wages and affordable housing
The New Zealand College of Public Health Medicine College wants to see a national, cross-sectoral strategy to reduce child poverty, embedded in legislation, with measurable targets that were monitored.
There is a growing chorus calling for action, but is anything likely to happen between now and next year’s report – no doubt again telling us what we know?
After all, as the College’s President, Dr Caroline McElnay points out: “Child poverty is actually a choice – a choice by our society and by our politicians.”
Other recent reports on child poverty
2014 “Child Poverty in New Zealand” by Jonathan Boston and Simon Chapple.
2013 “State of Nation” report, Salvation Army
2013 “Kids Missing Out” – UNICEF – a summary of the first twenty years of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Aotearoa
2012 “Solutions to Child Poverty in New Zealand: Evidence for Action”, Office of the Children’s Commissioner
2012 Measuring Child Poverty in New Zealand, Department of Statistics
2011 The Green Paper for Vulnerable Children, Ministry of Social Development
2010 Eradicating Child Poverty in New Zealand, Every Child Counts