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Government warned to measure child poverty in 2009

Government warned to measure child poverty in 2009

As far back as 2009, Health Officials recommended the Government measure and target child poverty as a way to improve child health, but the Government has continued to keep its head in the sand about the biggest threat to child wellbeing in New Zealand, the Green Party said today.

“Papers released to the Green Party under the Official Information Act (OIA) show Health Ministry officials responded to a recommendation from the Public Health Advisory Committee (PHAC) to measure and target child poverty by agreeing and suggesting that the Health Minister consider it a priority,” Green Party Health spokesperson Kevin Hague said.

“That recommendation went absolutely nowhere. The National Government has chosen to ignore repeated recommendations to measure and target child poverty from all the experts - including its own officials as far back as 2009 and the Children’s Commissioner this year - favouring a head in the sand approach instead.

“The Commissioner’s ground-breaking Poverty Report, released today, shows that the Government’s poverty denial is harming Kiwi children many of whom, contrary to Government spin, are staying in poverty and deprivation for much of their childhood.

“The report shows this is leading to children being admitted to hospital with serious diseases and sometimes even dying from illnesses associated with poverty.

“The papers released to me show that the Government was told as far back as 2009 that it needed to monitor and respond to child poverty if it wanted to make a difference to child health, but its taken the Commissioner to seek private funds for this work to get it done.

“Poverty requires the whole Government to act, but if the Health Minister had done his job and agreed to measure and monitor child poverty in 2009, then New Zealand might have realised the extent of poverty’s impact on children’s health before now.

“Tellingly, officials in 2009 also told the Minster that explicitly naming child health as a priority, as recommended by PHAC, ‘is likely to result in improvements to child health’, however they noted there were ‘competing health priorities faced by the Government and Ministry’.

“It is hard to conceive why child health would not be at the top of the Government’s health priorities. The Minister must clearly state why on earth child health is not named, explicitly, as his number one priority,” Mr Hague said.

Link to OIA papers from Health Ministry, responding to PHAC’s 2009 report The Best Start in Life:
https://www.greens.org.nz/sites/default/files/oia_health_response_to_phac.pdf

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