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PHA applauds hearing into Working for Families

6 June 2008
For immediate use

Public Health Association applauds Human Rights hearing into Working for Families

The Public Health Association commends the Child Poverty Action Group for taking a case to the Human Rights Review Tribunal over the “in-work tax credit” which discriminates against the children of parents who are dependent on a benefit.

As the first week of the hearing draws to a close, the National Executive Officer of the PHA, Dr Gay Keating, is pointing out that the UN Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights says that everyone has a right to an adequate standard of living including adequate food, clothing and housing and right to health includes the necessary steps for the healthy development of the child.

“A child’s need for food and a warm bed does not change depending on whether or not their parent is getting a benefit. The children left out of Working for Families are being left further behind,” says Dr Keating.

She says New Zealand also ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1993 and is legally bound to it. Article 2 of UNCROC says children should not be discriminated against on the basis of the status of their family.

“That is exactly what is happening when children of parents who work get the additional advantage of $60 a week, and children whose parents or parent relies on a benefit do not,” says Dr Keating.

“While it is true that the Working for Families package has lifted a number of children out of poverty, the Government simply cannot rest on its laurels, because there are 150,000 others still living below the breadline.

Dr Keating says it is not only a fundamental right, but it also makes good economic sense to ensure that all children have the benefits of two of the basics of healthy life – adequate, warm housing and sufficient nutritious food.

“UNICEF and the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health argue that most of the serious problems facing today’s industrialised countries have their roots in child poverty. It’s not rocket science to realise investing in our young should be front and centre of any Government’s agenda, to reap the enormous benefits of a more healthy and stable society not so far down track.

“A child in poverty is a burden on the health system now and in the future.

“All children need to have an adequate family income. Anything less is discrimination, a breach of the human rights of each of those 150,000 children living in severe hardship, and places New Zealand in contravention of international law,” says Dr Keating.



States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child's parents, legal guardians, or family members.

UN Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

Article 11

The States Parties to present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the international co-operation based on free consent.

The States Parties to present Covenant, recognizing the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger, shall take, individually and through international co-operation, the measures, including specific programmes, which are needed:

To improve methods of production, conservation and distribution of food by making full use of technical and scientific knowledge, by disseminating knowledge of the principles of nutrition and by developing or reforming agrarian systems in such a way as to achieve the most efficient development and utilization of natural resources;

Taking into account the problems of both food-importing and food-exporting countries, to ensure an equitable distribution of world food supplies in relation to need.

Article 12

The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for:

The provision for the reduction of the stillbirth-rate and of infant mortality and for the healthy development of the child;

The improvement of all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene;

The prevention, treatment and control epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases;

The creation of conditions which would assure to all medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness.


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