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Household Incomes Report shows children still left behind

UNICEF NZ (UN Children’s Fund)

Media Release

8 July 2014

Household Incomes Report shows children continue to be left behind

The Household Incomes Report and Economic Survey released by the Government today shows clearly that children continue to experience poverty and hardship at much higher rates than most other New Zealanders. Families reliant on welfare benefits – particularly sole parents – are experiencing a 17 percent reduction in income in real terms when 2014 incomes are measured against the base year of 1983.

In addition, housing costs mean that people in rental accommodation have very high outgoings compared to income – with almost half of those receiving the Accommodation Supplement spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing. Child poverty rates are double what they were in the 1980s because housing costs are so much higher than income, and seven out of ten children in poverty live in rental accommodation(20% HNZC, 50% in private rental).

Deborah Morris-Travers, National Advocacy Manager at UNICEF NZ, said, “The data released by the Government today confirms that current welfare and housing policies are leaving children in poverty and material hardship at much higher rates than older New Zealanders: 22 percent for those aged 0-17 and 7 percent for those aged 65 and over. Given what we know about the importance of a child’s development when they are young, this failure to protect children from the harms of poverty is a costly mistake.

“While the Incomes Report shows a slight drop in the numbers of children in poverty as a result of recovery from the recession, it is very concerning that 60 percent of the children in poverty are in chronic poverty, meaning there are likely to be longer-term impacts on their health and education.

“We can see from the Incomes Report that political commitment to protecting the incomes of older people has delivered low rates of elderly poverty when compared with other OECD countries. The data shows a 9 percent increase in National Superannuation in the period 1983-2014. It’s a real positive that New Zealand looks after its older people but maintaining income levels, combined with a higher likelihood of home ownership, means older people do much better than children and young families.

“UNICEF NZ wants all political parties to learn from the success of policies for older people and translate those lessons into policies that meet the needs of children. Cross-party agreements, universal delivery, and indexing incomes to inflation and wages seem to work well. Today’s Incomes Report is a timely reminder that New Zealand children need bold, compassionate policies on income and housing,” Ms Morris-Travers concluded.

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