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Potential for cross party agreement on policy for children

Political responses signal potential for cross party agreement on policy for children

The responses from political parties to questions raised by documentary maker, Bryan Bruce, released today, show a growing agreement among parties on some key policy areas affecting children and an understanding that parties need to develop cross-party agreements to support progress for children.

Over the past twenty years we have seen rapid growth in the level of disadvantage for our children with those in sole parent homes, reliant on benefits, living with disability, and Maori and Pasifika children most likely to experience child poverty.

During this period no government has turned the tide on New Zealand’s enduring high rates of child poverty and disadvantage. It is time for parliament to act with a united voice and agree on a few key interventions that will improve the standard of living for the significant group of children missing out on the basics for their development and well-being.

Deborah Morris Travers, National Advocacy Manager at UNICEF NZ, said “We have a cross party accord for our seniors about the minimum rate of National Superannuation, which has resulted in New Zealand having one of the lowest levels of elderly poverty in the OECD. What is stopping an accord for children that would take us from the bottom of OECD rankings to the top?

“It’s pleasing to see that Labour, the Greens, the Maori Party, Internet Mana, United Future, the Conservatives and ACT have all said they would be prepared to enter cross-party talks to reach agreement on long-term solutions to child poverty, but it’s disappointing that National has not yet confirmed it would be willing to do so.

“If we can do this for older New Zealanders, surely we can do it for children? The evidence in support of early investment in children is unequivocal and we know failure to invest in the early years results in medium and long term costs well in excess of spending in the early years. Prevention is always cheaper than the cure.

“There has long been a recognition that cross-party agreements have served to maintain the standard of living of older New Zealanders and protect them from economic hardship. Through the development of the 1993 superannuation accord – developed under a National Government - broad agreement emerged around National Superannuation being indexed to prices and not dropping below a percentage of the average wage, enabling New Zealand to have a low level of elderly poverty compared with our OECD counterparts.

“We ask all parties to look closely at the significant benefits to all children of creating certainty around the basic policies parties can commit to for children, so that investment is sustained, full evaluation of policies can occur and we can start to improve the poor health and education outcomes for children in poverty.

“UNICEF NZ has communicated with all political parties this year to identify priority policies for children and to urge cross-party talks. We are encouraging the smaller parties to ensure any confidence and supply agreements for the new government prioritise action for children so that we see progress within the first 100 days of the new parliament.

“Public interest in these issues is at an all-time high and we know many people will be taking policies for children into account when they vote on 20 September. It’s time for the political parties to work together to agree key policies that ensure all children are healthy, educated, protected and able to contribute to society in their adult years.

“To achieve a sustainable economy in the future, we will need entrepreneurs, business leaders, educators, customers and a population that contributes to society. This will not happen if we ignore the sea anchor of social and economic poverty currently undermining child wellbeing. It’s time to recognise that these are rights, not favours, and parliament has a responsibility to deliver on them for social, economic and legal reasons,” concluded Ms Morris-Travers.

-Ends-

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