Addressing Child Poverty a Priority

MEDIA RELEASE issued Tuesday 28 August 2012.

New Zealand must set a target for reducing child poverty if it is serious about making sure all Kiwi kids get the chance to meet their potential and contribute to a strong future for the country, according to ComVoices, an independent of community and voluntary sector organisations.

ComVoices members said an issues and options paper, released today by the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) established by the Children’s Commissioner in March, should be compulsory reading for all New Zealanders.

Robyn Scott of Philanthropy New Zealand said the extent of child poverty in New Zealand was well documented.

“About 25 percent of New Zealand children aged 0 – 17 years live below the income poverty line. Children living in poverty experience widely disproportionate levels of social deprivation, poor living standards, poor health outcomes and lower educational attainment,” Robyn said.

Brenda Smith of Funding Information Service said the discussion document contains a package of ideas that the EAG want New Zealanders to consider, discuss and give feedback on.

“It is good to see some practical proposals being put forward, including ensuring children are living in warm, dry homes, having enough food to participate well at school and making sure we have well connected services that keep kids healthy from early in life.”

ComVoices Chair and Volunteering New Zealand Chief Executive Vanisa Dhiru said ComVoices members supported the EAG’s proposal to set ambitious targets to reduce child poverty rates.

“Reducing child poverty by at least 30 percent and halving severe and persistent child poverty within ten years should be a priority for all Governments and the wider community,” Vanisa said.

“All New Zealanders should be hanging their heads in shame that our instance of child poverty is so high compared with other OECD countries. The EAG is right that the issue has been ignored for too long and even when there is a response, it has been piecemeal and poorly coordinated at best,” Vanisa said.

Tina Reid of Social Development Partners congratulated the Children’s Commissioner for tackling the issue from a practical perspective.

“This is the kind of practical policy solutions that we should be expecting from Government as they move to their results focus under the Better Public Services Programme. Our children are our future is not a cliché. We have to do better.”

Vanisa Dhiru added that poverty was causing long term harm to New Zealand children and communities in many ways and costing the country billions of dollars in reduced productivity and increased health care costs.

“This is not an issue for any one community or ethnicity. This is an issue for all New Zealanders. There is too much money spent fixing the damage instead of investing in stopping it from happening. ComVoices members agree that this is up to everyone to step up and take action,” Vanisa said.

ENDS

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