Child poverty risks being ingrained, action needed

child poverty

The Director of Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, Julianne Hickey is calling for action from politicial leaders to address child poverty in New Zealand.

Stats NZ figures show there has been an increase in material hardship and Hickey warns child poverty risks becoming ingrained.

In voicing its concern, Caritas points out that

  • 4100 more children living in homes that are without fresh fruit or vegetables,
  • these families put off visiting the doctor,
  • these families are not able to pay bills on time,
  • there is a housing shortage continues to create barriers for families trying to overcome poverty.

The Catholic justice, peace and development agency expresses disappointment that almost 25% of Māori and 33% Pacifican households face material hardship.

“The fact that so many Māori and Pacific children face material hardship should be a real cause for concern”, says Hickey.

About 10% of New Zealand European children were living in households facing material hardship.

Hickey says there is a huge amount to be done before we are even close to providing an opportunity for all New Zealand children to flourish.

Her comments echo Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft, who earlier in the week labelled the figures as underwhelming.

Indicating he feels let down, Beacroft says he had huge expectations.

Increasing benefits had to be a priority he told RNZ.

“We’ve got the money, there’s a surplus, my plea is spend it.

“It’s great that we’re improving eroded infrastructure, why aren’t we prioritising children in the same way with that surplus?”

Child Poverty Action Group economics spokesperson Susan St John is also concerned about the stall in reducing child poverty.

She told RNZ it is even unlikely to see a change in 2021.

“It’s hardly surprising because the families package wasn’t really designed to lift those children out of poverty,” she said.

“It does really I think give the government a wake-up call that they will have to do something to take effect immediately, not something introduced in the budget.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told RNZ there was more work to do, and insisted the figures showed the government was on the right track.

Combating child poverty has been a lifelong cause for Ardern and is the reason she entered politics aged 17.

“As prime minister I want to see urgent progress in this area.

“That is why we will be introducing measures and targets to ensure our policies across government are making a difference to the lives of children”, Ardern said on becoming Prime Minister.



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