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Data Errors Show Poverty Affecting 27 Percent of Children

UNICEF NZ (UN Children’s Fund)

Media Release

27 February 2014

Data Errors Show Poverty Affecting 27 Percent of Children

Revised figures released today by The Treasury and Statistics New Zealand reveal errors in official data have resulted in underestimations of the number of children living in poverty. The under-reporting shows 20,000 more children living in poverty then previously stated, highlighting the magnitude of the issue and that far too many children are struggling to have their basis needs met. This development further highlights the need for an official child poverty measure and a review of all data collected on the status of children in New Zealand.

Treasury and Statistics NZ have said that estimates of household disposable income (income from all sources after deducting income tax and adding tax credits) were miscalculated for 2007/08 and for 2009/10 to 2011/12 in a way that tended to overestimate the disposable incomes of households on low to middle incomes.

“Today’s news highlights the need for improvements in the measurement and evaluation of the issues facing children and their families, as well as policies that ensure every child has a decent standard of living to support their development,” says UNICEF NZ Advocacy Manager, Deborah Morris-Travers.

“UNICEF NZ and others has long held concerns about the absence of an official child poverty measure and gaps in data that mean New Zealand can’t be compared with its OECD counterparts on deprivation and living standards.

“While the corrected data released today doesn’t materially affect the 285,000 children in poverty, it illustrates a failure in government systems to adequately record and respond to the needs of our most vulnerable children. It is highly regrettable that the government has been operating with an incomplete picture of the severity of child poverty.

“Experts, advocates, health practitioners, teachers, community leaders and parents have been working to tell the story of the children living in poverty for years now. Along with the information from the ground, good data is needed to inform effective policy and track progress in addressing the issues,” Ms Morris-Travers added.

In addition to an official measure of child poverty, UNICEF NZ believes there is a need for a comprehensive review of the data collected on child wellbeing and greater transparency of the take-up of welfare benefits and income supplements. Reporting and publishing information about take-up rates would improve government understanding of what policy and practical steps need to be put in place.

“New Zealanders are increasingly concerned that so many children are missing out on nutritious food, warm homes, health services and educational opportunities. People understand that when children are in poverty there are consequences that have a lasting impact on our society and as a result there has been increasing calls for action.

“We hope the today’s developments will provide added impetus to public and political efforts to address the root causes of poverty, through effective support for parents and children. This issue concerns us all and must be given the level of attention it so rightly deserves,” concluded Ms Morris-Travers.

ENDS


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