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New report highlights emerging social problems

Major new report highlights emerging social problems in NZ society

A major publication written by leading economists, paediatricians and researchers is calling for major shifts in social policy. The authors say the report points to chilling implications for the workforce in 20 years if New Zealand’s current rates of child poverty, consequent under-achievement, and social exclusion are not addressed immediately.

Our Children: The Priority for Policy (2nd edition), published by the Auckland Child Poverty Action Group, says it is disturbing that food banks are recording increased demand at a time when the economy has grown and unemployment has continued to fall. Spokesperson Susan St John says children’s hospitals have also seen significant increases in serious diseases caused by poverty and overcrowding, and there are other warning signs.

“Food prices and rents have continued to rise relentlessly, and a rapidly rising property market has made renting and home ownership increasingly unaffordable for many families.”

Ms. St John says the authors believe the gaps in the New Zealand welfare system will become further exposed if the economy begins to stall this year. She says many people have difficulty accepting that child poverty exists in a country as affluent as New Zealand but even government reports acknowledge that almost one third of our children are living in poverty.

“Deliberate and sustained commitment over many sectors is needed to reverse this trend.”

The authors are calling for a move away from harsh targeting and for the government to commit to substantial redistribution towards low-income families.

“We also need to stop blaming the victims. Poverty is a structural problem, one that child-focused public policy can help to eliminate” Ms St John says.

Recommendations in the report include adopting clear goals for elimination of child poverty; immediately extending the Child Tax Credit to all low-income families; adjustments for inflation to restore the value of Family Support; full adjustments every year for inflation for all family payments; commitment to build 1000 new state houses a year; extending free health and dental care to all children; and increasing funding to low decile schools.

A full copy of Our Children: The Priority for Policy (2nd edition) will be available on the CPAG website http:// http://www.cpag.org.nz

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