What CPAG wants in the Budget
What CPAG wants in the Budget
CPAG is looking to the Government for a strong indication that it now appreciates the scale and tragedy of child poverty in New Zealand.
This is a budget in difficult times but there is no excuse for the widening gaps in society. The devising of a growth strategy that will generate more meaningful jobs is a key issue, but deliberate and significant redistribution is also required.
"Otherwise the recovery will simply result in gains for the privileged few and the poorest children missing out again" says Associate Professor Mike O'Brien, CPAG Convenor.
There are four key areas for children: income, health, housing, and education.
Income improvements was a key recommendation of the Children's Commissioner's Expert Advisory Group. That group wanted government to spend $1.2-2B more on children.
This means joining up the Family Tax Credit and the In Work Tax Credit" says Associate Professor Susan St John. "An extra $60 a week for a family means less time spent queuing for food parcels or arguing for additional temporary support payments from WINZ". Those at the very bottom of the child poverty statistics would gain without giving any extra to better-off families.
The second step, just as in Australia, every newborn in a low-income family should be assisted on an equal basis. "This would require that the Parental Tax Credit of $1200 which only helps a few be added to the Family Tax Credit for the first year so that all low income babies are given the same essential extra help" she says.
CPAG says that as a first step Government should spend an extra $450-500m per annum to extend Working for Families tax credits so that it fully covers all low-income children.
For extra income in a fragmented and casualised labour market, parents on a benefit who can only work part-time need a regime that encourages their work effort. "This requires that the threshold of earnings before the benefit reduces be lifted substantially and the claw-back reduced" says Associate Professor Mike O'Brien.
CPAG Health spokesperson Professor Innes Asher emphasized the benefits of providing fully subsidised care for children aged under six. "Often there are costs for going to the doctor and getting prescription medicines and these are enormous barriers for low income families".
"In addition to the individual child and family suffering, there were large ongoing costs to the economy for not prioritising disease prevention. School age children must be helped too as they are hospitalised at high rates in New Zealand for highly preventable diseases such as serious skin infections, rheumatic fever and bronchiectasis." says Professor Innes Asher.
CPAG believes housing is a critical element and any move to reduce the impacts of child poverty is welcome says Alan Johnson, Housing spokesperson.
"While CPAG is pleased to see that the government is beginning to take the growing shortage of affordable housing seriously, initial indications of the scale of the response proposed by government are disappointing", he says.
The recent announcement by Minister of Housing, the Hon Dr Nick Smith that government plans to build 500 new state houses in Auckland is a welcome start. However a long term and much larger budget is required to address the deficit in the building of houses of over 15,000 in the last five years.
"CPAG is looking forward to the government also taking the Christchurch housing shortage seriously and we believe both central and local government should be working to a specific housing action plan in this regard" says Mr Johnson.
Education spokesperson Professor John O'Neill says that rather than wasting precious public funds on 'nice to have' private schooling for the wealthy, more basic funding for 1-4 decile schools is critical. An extra $130m per annum would give these schools $1 per day per child to provide a nutritious meal for all children and an additional experienced teacher to support their learning.
"Of course we want to see more for food in schools, a loan scheme at low interest rates for those who otherwise go to loan sharks, and more funding to address third world diseases but we urge the government to focus on the structural and systemic causes of our disgraceful child poverty record," says Associate Professor Mike O'Brien.