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Annah Stretton: Crisis vs Change

Crisis vs Change

Annah Stretton, RAW Charity founder and Director, discusses child poverty and how the budget needs to address the issue through mothers

Child poverty is a reality in New Zealand – but are we going the right way about addressing the problem? Many think that lifting household incomes is the way forward in ending child poverty in New Zealand, and there is pressure on the government to address this in the 2015 budget.

The greater majority of impoverished children are living in single parent homes, predominantly with their mothers. While the attention of the latest budget seems to be to throw money at children in a crisis situation, we are losing focus on the key person that can effect change – the mother. I feel the ‘mother’ role is crucial, and needs to be the centre of attention in any programme designed to make real change. Throwing huge amounts of money, either by the government or charity organisations, is not the answer to the crisis - it may fix an immediate problem, but not the root cause.

All mothers want the very best care for their children, but often they are working every hour available to just keep things together, even with their limited skills and often little or no education. These amazing women are fighting a losing battle, as they lack the support to help them focus on nurturing their children.

A common belief is that the children living in poverty are there because their parents spend too much of their income on non-essentials - making poor choices. There is no doubt that many parents struggle to cope with life, make unwise decisions or get trapped into debt. Some suffer poor mental health or have drug, alcohol and gambling problems. These issues are real and need addressing. Mothers have a huge influence on their children as they grow into adult-hood, and are pivotal in enabling an enriched and loving childhood. It is imperative we break the cycle with this generation - help mothers address their issues and educate them to become better parents.

We need a parent-centred programme of change that, regardless of the cause, recognises the fact that mothers need our support to help them achieve and maintain a stable, positive home for their children. The wider community also has a responsibility to help reduce child poverty, and the maybe not so obvious solution is to support the parent(s) to do a better job. Mum is in charge of the home environment and she needs to be supported and educated in the areas of life skills, personal development, stress management and budgeting to give her children the future they deserve.

New Zealand’s children need healthy nurturing, regular positive stimulation and confident role modelling as a foundation in their childhood lifestyles. Motherhood is a lifelong connection, consisting of far more than the physical care of a child. Increasing the maternal investment of a mother into her children, in all areas of a child’s mental and societal well-being, is the only way to effect change. Provide support and guidance for the mother and you change the future of the children.


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