Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Greens act on child poverty

Child poverty is our most pressing social problem. It blights lives. It sees kids going to school hungry, or not going to school at all. It results in higher rates of illness. And it permanently reduces its victims' life-chances, resulting in higher rates of unemployment, mental illness, criminal behaviour. Eliminating it benefits all of us, not just by making this a decent country where no-one starves, but by reducing those costs, which we all end up paying.

This morning, the Greens launched their policy to eliminate child poverty. The core problem is income adequacy, and they address this by promising to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour, and universalise Working For Families' "in-work" tax credit to cover all children. To help children of parents on benefits (70% of whom are in poverty), they would extend the Training Incentive Allowance, allowing those parents to upskill themselves and improve their employment prospects. And to reduce health problems for children in poverty (and everyone else), they would introduce energy efficiency standards for rental accommodation, requiring all rental houses to be warm and healthy.

This is a good package, which would significantly reduce the problem. It will be expensive, around $360 million a year. But its worth it. According to the Household Incomes in New Zealand report released yesterday, 25% of our children are growing up in poverty. 25%. We're throwing a quarter of our future society overboard for the selfishness of the rich. Anyone who thinks that is a price worth paying so that people like John Key (who are rolling in it) can pay a bit less tax does not have their head screwed on straight.