Tuesday, December 11, 2012

National doesn't care about child poverty

For the past nine months, an Expert Advisory Group led by the Children's Commisisoner has been working on evidence-based solutions to child poverty. Today, they released their report [PDF], recommending a child poverty reduction strategy so that the government can be held accountable, as well as concrete policies such as passing on child-support payments (starting at a low rate of $10 per week), a food-in-schools programme, a warrant of fitness for rental housing, and changes to service delivery. In the longer term they want to see a universal child benefit, an increase in the number of state houses, and a review of benefit rates.

The government's response? They're not interested:

Russell Wills' final report into child poverty has thrown the ball back to the Government, recommending 78 changes, including enshrining child welfare in law.

However, the Government has already poured cold water on the report, rejecting one big-ticket recommendation and emphasising tight finances.

I guess things look very different for Bennett now she's on a $250,000 a year Ministerial salary rather than on the DPB.

As for cost, as the report emphasises, child poverty costs us between $6 and $8 billion a year. Spending money on reducing it is a saving, not a cost. But Bennett is too short-sighted to see that (or rather, the costs are borne by others, so they are Not Her Problem).

The Expert Advisory Group has made a strong case that we can do better. They've looked at the evidence on what works overseas, and what doesn't, and tailored their recommendations to suit. If National wants to ignore them, then it sends a clear message that they don't really care about child poverty, and aren't interested in doing anything substantive to combat it. And that simply isn't morally acceptable. The onus is now on us as voters to turf this rotten, child-hating government out of office, and replace them with someone who will act.