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Real Budget commitment for poorest needed

17 May, 2005

Real Budget commitment for poorest needed, say child advocates

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) is calling for Budget 05 to demonstrate long-term commitment to the wellbeing of all of NZ's poorest children.

Last year's Budget announced the Working for Families package. April 2005 was the first time for nine years that low income families received any increase in their financial support from the Government," says CPAG economics spokesperson Dr Susan St John. For some families, it was generous. For others it was only a partial catch-up for past neglect, leaving them in some cases only "no worse off".

CPAG is concerned that much-needed money in the form of the Child Tax credit is still being withheld from families receiving government benefits. Worse, in 2006, government plans to use the new In Work Payment to replace the Child Tax Credit. The introduction of inflation adjustment for child-related payments is welcome future-proofing, but is not coming in until 2008. An extensive and long-term programme is needed to help families get out of poverty.

"We understand why the government may want to give work incentives, but depriving children who have no control over how their parents get their income is not the way to go about it," says Dr St John. "The Budget needs to deliver real assistance and encouragement to struggling families. It must improve their current living standards, give them hope for the future and not punish children because their parents are getting state support."

CPAG believes the 2005 Budget at minimum needs to contain:

1. A commitment to halving child poverty by 2010 and to a clear goal of eliminating child poverty by 2015-2020 - much like the UK government's promises and action s of the last five years. 2. Extension of the Child Tax Credit to all low income families (not just those independent of the state). Removal of all discrimination in child-related payments based on source of parental income. 3. An increase in the family support abatement threshold to $38,000. 4. Immediate indexation of all aspects of family assistance on the same basis as other welfare payments 5. A substantial programme for lifting low income families out of housing-related poverty over the next 5 years. 6. Adequate funding and an immediate implementation of policy to make all health care free for those aged under 18, fully covering medical, dental and disability needs.

ENDS

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