Tuesday, December 15, 2015

National fails on child poverty

For the past year, National has been talking about a recovery, even a "rock star economy". Things are doing so well John Key gave himself a $13,500 pay-rise as a christmas present. Meanwhile, more children than ever before are living in poverty:

Nearly one-third of all New Zealand children are living in poverty and more than half of those kids will never escape it.

The latest Child Poverty Monitor report, released by Children's Commissioner Russell Wills, laid out a grim reality for more than 300,000 children.

It draws on a number of different measures by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to paint a single picture of child poverty in New Zealand.

While the number of children living in the most severe hardship has decreased slightly, a total of 29 per cent of children lived with income poverty, compared to 24 per cent at the last measure.

Children were also far more likely to be living in poverty than pensioners, of which 13 per cent lived on incomes that were less than 60 per cent of the current median income. That worked out to be around $30,600 or less.

Particularly worrying, about 14 per cent of children were living without basic essentials like fresh fruit and vegetables, a warm house and decent clothing. But it was difficult to interpret trends, because some of the measures had changed in the past year.

The government's response? Try and obfuscate the issue by talking about their "range of measures" and pretending that its all about "benefit-dependent households". But its not. These kids aren't just the children of beneficiaries, but the children of ordinary working New Zealanders, who have seen their wages and conditions stagnate or even go backwards under National's repressive employment laws. They live in poverty not because of some failure on the part of their parents, but because National's economy delivers for the few, not the many. And ultimately, they suffer because National chooses to do nothing about this. As Tolley's response shows, reducing child poverty simply is not a priority for this government.

It should be - because child poverty costs us a huge amount of money. It leads to unemployment, crime, health, and lower economic potential, imposing long-term costs on the welfare, education, health, and justice system budgets. Reducing it is an investment, not a cost. But like their friends in the business community, National is not interested in investing in New Zealand. They'd rather run it into the ground instead.