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Poorest Children Most In Need Of Support, Says PHA

Poorest Children Most In Need Of Support, Says PHA
Media statement, 29 November 2005

The Government’s upcoming ‘in-work payment’ is denying help to the very children who need it most, says the Public Health Association (PHA). It is supporting action by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) against the Government, claiming the policy is discriminatory.

PHA Director Dr Gay Keating says that the Government’s Working for Families package discriminates against children based on the employment of their parents. From next April, families on lower incomes will receive additional financial support as long as parents are not on benefits.

“Children have the same basic health needs no matter what the source of their parents’ income.” she says. “This policy condemns infants whose parents are not in work to a higher chance of illness. Diseases from the age of Charles Dickens are still present in New Zealand because one in five children live in poverty.”

“Sadly, we have become accustomed to our high rates of disease, injury, disability and death as the ‘normal’ child health picture in New Zealand – even though these rates are shocking in comparison with other OECD countries.”

Dr Keating says that meningococcal disease is a particularly high-profile poverty-related disease, which is especially common where people live in crowded homes.

“We also have high rates of rheumatic fever, pneumonia, chronic lung infection, gastroenteritis, ear disease, dental disease and serious skin infections.”

She says that income is widely recognised as a crucial determinant of health.

“It impacts on the ability to purchase healthy food, adequate housing, home heating, after-hours visits to the doctor and prescriptions, and school books.

“The Working for Families package will make a huge difference to the health of many children in low-income families. But by targeting financial support only to those families in work, the Government is discriminating against many children who most need help. The PHA supports CPAG’s challenge to this discrimination.”


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