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Green Bill Puts Poverty On The Political Agenda

Green Bill Puts Poverty On The Political Agenda

The Public Health Association is supporting a private member's bill to bring back a universal benefit for all children.

The Green Party's Social Security (Child Benefit) Amendment Bill would see a benefit paid to families at the rate of $15 a week for the first child and $10 a week for all other children.

PHA director Gay Keating says government research shows a third of New Zealand children are living in poverty and it is clearly time for government to take some action. Dr Keating says the Green Party bill is one way of starting some public debate about the plight of low-income families.

The government has announced it will be making changes to help low-income families in the next budget, Dr Keating says. She says the government should support the Child Benefit Bill going to select committee to widen the discussion on ways to support low-income families.

"It is crucial that this bill makes it through to the select committee process so there can be some substantial discussion about the effects of poverty in this country."

The Public Health Association has a long-standing concern about links between low income, poverty and poor health, Dr Keating says. She says there are well-documented links between poor housing and infectious diseases.

"Government needs to invest in children to limit downstream costs in health, crime and lost productivity."

Dr Keating says action on a comprehensive strategy on child poverty needs to be a substantive part of government planning and reporting every year. The PHA is also calling for other immediate action, in particular ensuring the special benefit is allocated to all eligible families.

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