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Budget should help lift children out of poverty

Budget should help lift children out of poverty - UNICEF

Wellington, 18 May 2010.Whatever else the Budget holds for New Zealanders, it must do something to reduce New Zealand’s shocking level of child poverty.

UNICEF NZ Executive Director, Dennis McKinlay, says it is concerning that some 216,000 New Zealand children live in poverty, or 20 percent of Kiwi children.

“New Zealand does not feature well on international league tables for children living in poverty and children’s material well-being here is ranked lower than countries such as Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Italy, and well below the UK and Korea.”

Mr McKinlay says this is a “serious and unsustainable social issue” and hopes that it will not be made worse by next week’s Budget.

“Politicians have it within their power to improve the situation of those children and to ensure that they are protected from the harsh effects of economic decisions that have been foreshadowed.

“In particular, it is of concern that children may have to bear the brunt of rises in GST, tax cuts, changes to benefit entitlements, and cuts to services.

“It is not wise for any society to allow children to be raised in poverty. Apart from the long-term impact on individual children, we as a society will have to pay more throughout the health, justice and remedial education systems.”

Mr McKinlay says that it is sound economic sense to invest in children to avoid them dropping out of school, suffering from chronic and preventable diseases and living on the margins of society where they can be recruited for criminal activities.

“Poverty in childhood places a huge burden on society as those children fail to reach their potential to become productive and contributing members of society. To have a sustainable economy, New Zealand needs to invest in its children. They will form the future skilled workforce, as well as be society’s future business people, scientists, teachers and parents.

“We need to stand in support of all children having a fair deal and that their right to security, nourishment, health care and quality education is not undermined by budget decisions that fail to consider the impact on children today

“UNICEF NZ calls on the Government to put children first for the benefit of both children and our whole society.”

ENDS

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