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Quick Fix Remedy the Wrong One

Media Release
Quick Fix Remedy the Wrong One

Thursday April 20, 2006

The last two days have seen a concerted effort by various groups to pressure the government into putting more cash into the homes of beneficiary children; the Child Poverty Action Group, the Home and Family Society, Dr Cass Byrnes and the Maori Party have each made submissions.

"It isn't because the circumstances of these children don't concern me that I reject this proposal - it's the opposite, " said Lindsay Mitchell, anti- DPB campaigner.

"Children's health and well-being is about more than income levels. An extensive study revealed this in 2002 when researchers compared poor children from homes reliant on government transfers with those from homes reliant on market income (benefit homes vs working homes)."

"Both groups had incomes below the poverty threshold yet the study found the first group were worse off than the second. In part this was because of parental characteristics which made them more likely to be on welfare. These children were more likely to be 'subject to restrictions in key items of consumption' ."

"Despite similar incomes the beneficiary was more likely to report inadequacy of income. For instance 17 percent reported having postponed a child's visit to the doctor to keep costs down. In the second group this dropped to 8 percent. Didn't have suitable wet-weather clothing for each child applied to 16 percent in the benefit households and 9 in the working households. There is a lengthy list I could quote from."

"The study summarised with, 'The results of this study suggest that poor children in families primarily reliant on government transfers are a particularly vulnerable group....The findings suggest a need for policies that have a wider focus than just income support' ."

Mitchell urged the government to resist any action that would encourage more people onto benefits. "Quick fix remedies rarely endure and often aggravate. The long term interests of children will be not be served by making benefits more attractive."


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