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Children are low priority says Every Child Counts

24 November 2011
Every Child Counts Media Statement

Children are low priority says Every Child Counts

‘Another election campaign draws to a close and once again children are low priority for politicians,’ says Liz Gibbs, chairperson of Every Child Counts.

‘You can’t say that the media and commentators have not highlighted the depressing facts though,’ she continues.

‘It is sobering to remember that 25 percent of our citizens (those aged between 0-17 years) have no vote. Inevitably therefore, politicians simply do not really engage in their issues, although in not doing so they ignore the fact that every child and young person has a couple of parents who care.’

‘There has been no significant engagement with children and young people’s issues in the election discussions and debates.’

‘It is well-known today that New Zealand has internationally high rates of child poverty, child abuse, and poverty-related children’s diseases. What is not so well-known is that this is a direct consequence of New Zealand’s low rates of public investment in children.’

‘Successive governments have failed to put the necessary dollars into children,’ Liz continues. ‘Only six countries of the OECD invest less money in children than New Zealand.’

‘We invest half of what Australia spends on each child during the critical first six years of their life. The result is that we rank 28th out of 30 OECD countries in terms of children’s well-being outcomes.’

‘Does it really matter?’ she asked. ‘Yes - put aside humanitarian considerations and just focus on the economic consequences. Infometrics have calculated that poor outcomes for children cost the New Zealand economy $6 billion every year, that’s 3 percent of GDP. Furthermore, the University of Auckland has explained that the evidence now exists of an emergent brown underclass.’

‘When we launched our 1000 days to get it right campaign we called for three immediate steps -
i) clear ministerial responsibility for children
ii) the introduction of child impact assessments of new policy
iii) the development of a comprehensive programme of government action to change the status of children that includes a commitment to ending child poverty by 2020, and strategies specific to Māori and Pasifika.’

‘Only when we have political action along those lines will we see children move out of the shadowy margins of our national political life and outcomes for our future generations improve,’ Liz concludes.


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