Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A partial solution

How do we reduce child poverty? The core problem is income adequacy, so if we want to resolve this we need to increase benefits, and to a lesser extent wages, so that they are enough to provide for basic needs. But there are other things we can do too to reduce its effects. Today, the Child Poverty Action Group has propose done obvious solution: a government funded school-breakfasts program for all children in decile 1-2 schools:

The simplest and most straightforward response is to make sure breakfast is avialable for any child in a Decile 1 or 2 school who needs it, and is available on a universal basis so as not to stigmatise any child," Mr Johnson says. "It is false economy to spend large sums on remedial education and other band aids to poor student achievement when the basics are being ignored."

CPAG is suggesting that a bare bones schools breakfast programme operating in decile one and two schools would cost between $7 million and $14 million and perhaps as much as $20 million if it was extended to decile 3 schools and included most of the support for food and staffing costs.

This is really a bandaid solution, addressing the symptoms but not the real problem - but it will do a lot of good. And even $20 million is not a lot of money. To point out the obvious, this is only 0.5% of the cost of National's tax cuts for the rich. So, the question for the government, and all our political parties, is this: which do you value more: the life-chances of the next generation of kiwis, or the uber-rich getting to take another international holiday? I'd love to hear the answer to that one...