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Researcher calls for action on child poverty

Researcher calls for action on child poverty

Social Development Minster Paula Bennett is out of her depth and has no answers with dealing child poverty, a leading Māori researcher says.

Dr Leonie Pihama, director of the University of Waikato’s Te Kotahi Research Institute, says recently released key reports into child poverty show there are large and growing numbers of tamariki within Aotearoa living in poverty.

She says everyone should be appalled that so many babies and children are living in such abject poverty and says Ms Bennett’s response to the reports has been “deplorable”.

“Her responses to these issues and the minimising of the reports’ findings is deplorable and highlights the Minister is out of her depth, with no answers for dealing with this growing disparity,” she says.

Dr Pihama says the UNICEF (2013) report Kids Missing Out, the Child Poverty Monitor Technical Report (2013) and others such as the Child Action Poverty Group’s Left Further Behind: How New Zealand Is Failing It’s Children' (2011) have repeatedly shown that child poverty in Aotearoa is having a significant impact on tamariki and their whānau.

“These reports highlight increasing child poverty within Aotearoa and need to be taken seriously by this government and as a community we all need to be saying that this is absolutely unacceptable,” she says.

Dr Pihama is a lead researcher on the Tiakina Te Pā Harakeke project, which is investigating traditional Māori approaches to childrearing. The research is to provide deeper understandings of how tikanga Māori can be used to support positive changes for Māori, she says.

“What we are hearing is not only how the economic situation has impacted on whānau access to fundamentals such as food, housing and health care, but that the current neoliberal drive is also undermining some of the traditional strategies that we used to support each other in the hard times,” she says.

The Child Poverty Monitoring report highlights that in 2012, 265,000 children aged 0–17 lived in poverty (using the <60% contemporary median after housing costs measure). This equated to 25% of all New Zealand children. It also showed that from 2010 to 2012 (using the AHC 60% fixed line measure), about 30% of Maori and 30% of Pacific children lived in poor households, as compared to 15% of European children.

“Everyone in this country should be appalled that so many of our babies and children are living in such abject poverty,” Dr Pihama says.

She also believes the government’s current economic pathway is one that will see thousands more children experiencing poverty that is government imposed. There are, she says, many alternatives that would enable all whānau to have wellbeing.

“Approaches such as ‘Whānau Ora’ and ‘Feed The kids’ would give some relief and align to traditional practices of manaakitanga and whānaungatanga, both of which inspire collective caring.”

“What is needed is for all in Aotearoa to stand and up and say to this government that we care about our children, and that we want to ensure wellbeing for our future generations, and that must start now”.


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