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NZ needs measurable changes to reduce poverty

Media Release
For immediate release

Friday 17 October 2008

New Zealand needs measurable changes to reduce poverty

New Zealand political parties need to set measurable targets for how they will work to eradicate poverty in New Zealand, according to Tangata Whenua, community and voluntary sector organisations.

In recognition of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (Friday, 17 October), members of ComVoices, an independent coalition of Tangata Whenua, community and voluntary sector organisations, want concrete targets for how Government will work towards creating a better New Zealand society.

Tina Reid, Executive Director of the New Zealand Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations (NZFVWO) says any economic downturn disproportionately affects the most vulnerable, and social cohesion quickly comes under pressure.

“A Fair Go for all Children, a recent report by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner found that in New Zealand’s last economic recession, in the late 1980s, child poverty rates rose sharply.

“Today there are 150,000 New Zealand children living in poverty. We need to plot how we are going to address that issue in a way that communities can clearly measure,” Tina says.

The impact of poverty on children’s cognitive development and subsequent educational outcomes starts even before birth. Because children born into poor households are more likely to be born with low birth weights, they have a higher risk of low IQ and consequently poorer educational outcomes.

Thérèse Quinlivan, Director of Community Housing Aotearoa says the volatility of the current economic environment will also further impact housing issues.

“Low-income families are increasingly unable to meet day-to-day expenses. They are doubling up in the cheapest accommodation available, often state housing. However, there are many reported cases of families living in garages,” says Ms Quinlivan.

Ric Odom, Chief Executive of YMCA says there is a need for policies that take direct action on persistent social issues.

“Addressing single aspects of the issue isn’t enough. We need Government looking at a whole-of-government response and working with the Sector to deliver the solutions.”

Tim Burns, Executive Director of Volunteering New Zealand says the Sector and Government need to work more closely on a concrete strategy for delivering to communities more effectively.

“We’d like to see a Prime Minister’s Sector Forum established. Meetings to ensure there is high-level engagement between the Government and the Sector on the social issues that our country faces, including child poverty,” Tim says.

Robyn Scott, Executive Director of Philanthropy New Zealand says recognising the role that ‘giving’ New Zealanders make to social cohesion is also part of delivering a measurable vision for New Zealand.

“Sector organisations rely on people’s generosity in time and money to sustain community services. As we enter a recession, every New Zealander who is able to give has a greater role to play in ensuring we maintain a society that values and respects all peoples,” Robyn says.

Recent tax changes that ComVoices members advocated for have made it easier to give. The cap on tax breaks for charitable donations has been removed. Previously, no matter how much you donated, a $630 refund was the most you could get. Now you can claim a tax rebate of one-third of every dollar you donate, up to the amount of your income.


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