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Government conceals harsh truths in poverty report

Government conceals harsh truths in poverty report – Maori Party

Hon Tariana Turia, Maori Party Whanau spokesperson 3 July 2008

60 percent of the children of unemployed families still live in poverty, and incomes for the poorest families have not increased at all over the past ten years, according to the government‘s own MSD report on poverty which was released today.

“These figures are a national disgrace,” said Tariana Turia.

“There is clearly a core of entrenched poverty that the government’s policies are failing to address.

“The problem is the moral judgements underlying the government’s policies, in particular, the discrimination between poor children whose parents are in paid work, and those whose parents aren’t,” said Mrs Turia. “The children miss out regardless, on sports and drama, musical instruments, warm clothes and cosy home, on chances to reach their full potential.

“The report says that over three years, beneficiary household incomes stayed static, while working households’ situation improved. Similarly, poverty rates for children in unemployed families remained at an unbelievable 60 percent, while poverty among children of working parents fell by almost half.

"But you don’t eliminate poverty just by keeping down the numbers of families living in poverty,” she said. “If the government was serious about eliminating poverty, they would have put a deadline on it," she said.

“There is a separate problem of how to reach the very poorest families, whose income has not risen for ten years. The report says the data are unreliable. This is indicative of serious poverty – unstable family and household structures, non-participation in wider society, suspicion of officialdom - and the government has no real answers.

“The Maori Party says three measures are urgently needed:

• extending the in-work tax credit to cover all families with children, without discriminating as to whether their parents are working or not;

• providing a universal child benefit, which experience shows is more likely to be taken up by the poorest families in the greatest need; and

• setting a deadline to eliminate child poverty, so progress can be measured.

“If we continue with ‘business-as-usual’, then deepening economic problems will squeeze the life and hope out of more and more struggling families. And that will create really serious problems for the whole of society in future,” said Mrs Turia.

“As Nelson Mandela said: ‘It should never be that the anger of the poor should be the finger of accusation pointed at all of us because we failed to respond to the cries of the people for food, for shelter, for the dignity of the individual.’

“The government must get over its right-wing, individualistic, moral stance on welfare, and see effective support for poor families as an investment in future generations," Mrs Turia said.


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