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Child poverty is not going away

2 March 2005

Child poverty is not going away

Government claims that child poverty problems have improved in the past five years are discredited by a Health Ministry report published this week, the Green Party says.

The report, Influences in Childhood on the Development of Cardiovascular Disease and Type 2 Diabetes in Adulthood, confirmed what the Green Party has been saying for many years, Green MPs Sue Kedgley and Sue Bradford said.

The report is based on the latest New Zealand and international research and shows that one child in three in New Zealand is growing up below the accepted minimum living standard.

It shows that low-income New Zealand families are unable to purchase essential foods, Ms Kedgley, the Green's Health Spokesperson says.

"What this means is that a generation of New Zealand children are growing up without the necessary vitamin and minerals needed for healthy development."

New Zealand is experiencing rapidly increasing rates of childhood obesity and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Healthy choices, which would lower the chances of children developing these lifelong conditions, are limited by socio-economic constraints, the report says.

The report confirms that many New Zealand families can't even afford to provide a basic nutritious diet for their children, Ms Kedgley says.

It is unacceptable that those who are already the most vulnerable can't even get basic staples like good food disadvantaged and it's time for this Government to take responsibility for all the members of our society, Ms Kedgley says.

Ms Bradford, the Green's Children's Affairs Spokesperson, says the Unicef report confirmed other research over the past five years that showed the deliberate actions of both the Labour and National governments had created intergenerational poverty.

"Those affects are still with us and still affecting far too many children. While the Government has taken some steps we are pleased with, such as income-related rents and some assistance for families, there is still discrimination against the children of beneficiaries.

"The Government's Working for Families policy only rewards families where at least one parent is working, leaving beneficiary families out in the cold. It also abolishes the special benefit, which is actually a benefit cut.

"New Zealand also has a very low wage economy - many workers wages are not even enough to properly feed, house or care for their families. We believe the minimum wage should be raised to $12 an hour and it's time that employers stopped relying on the taxpayer to subsidise wages through accommodation supplement and other forms of family support.

"We call on both the Government and employers to play their part in eliminating child poverty in New Zealand."

ENDS

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