Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Left further behind

When he was campaigning to become Prime Minister, John Key promised to "tackle NZ's growing underclass" by reducing poverty. Four years on, what's he done?

Nothing, according to a report by the Child Poverty Action Group. According to their latest report, Left Further Behind: How policies fail the poorest children in New Zealand [PDF, large], a quarter of kiwi kids are still in poverty, and their situation is getting worse and worse:

The report states indicators of social distress are paralleled by reports of third world diseases like rheumatic fever, homelessness, poor dental health, hunger and family dysfunction.

According to the report, policies such as Working for Families have still left the poorest children far behind their peers. Nothing has changed to correct this situation and in the meantime it has been made worse by natural disasters and a recession. Increased applications for hardship grants and food parcels have been direct consequences of the poverty arising from inadequate benefits.

O'Brien said if the status quo was maintained, the situation for those worst affected, namely Maori and Pacific Island children, would simply get worse and the social and economic consequences for the country would be huge.

Maori children are twice as likely as Pakeha to be living in a poor household at below 60 per cent of the median household income.

This is absolutely shameful. These conditions should not exist in New Zealand. We're supposed to be a better society than this, one where everyone gets a good start in life.

As for Key, having used child poverty as a rhetorical prop four years ago, the boy from a state house has quietly forgotten about it. Meanwhile, his online PR flacks spout nonsense about how this sort of inequality is good. No doubt while sipping champagne.