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Adequate family incomes essential to reduce child poverty

2 September 2014: News from CPAG
Adequate family incomes essential to reduce child poverty

Child Poverty Action Group says making sure families have enough money to care for their children is a fundamental part of the solution to child poverty.

In a new policy paper on family incomes, CPAG recommends well supported benefits and tax credits, and an increase in the minimum wage to provide for the needs of children in low income families.

Adequate incomes to address child poverty is the fifth and last in a series of CPAG policy papers being released in the lead up to the 2014 election with recommendations for policy change to alleviate child poverty. The compilation Our Children, Our Choice will be published online and in hard copy on 9 September.

Co-author, Associate Professor Susan St John said, "It is unacceptable that families live in poverty because the social assistance system that is supposed to support them is not doing its job properly. The current debate tends to focus on other aspects of poverty as if cash income is not relevant. Of course improvements to health services, quality education, affordable and appropriate housing are vitally important, but families must also have enough weekly income to meet the needs of their children."

Current benefit policy is focused on moving people from a benefit into paid work, without considering the impact on children's health and well-being. Paid work can only be part of the strategy to reduce poverty. Beneficiaries with children often cannot take on paid work because of their personal circumstances, while others can't find work that allows them to meet their parenting obligations satisfactorily. Furthermore, paid work does not guarantee that children will move above the poverty line. 40% of children living in poverty are in working families.

CPAG also argues that social assistance for families with children is far too complicated and needs a complete overhaul. Susan St John said, "The system is a dog's breakfast. Navigating the maze of benefits, supplementary payments, family tax credits, abatements, shared care rules, hours of paid work requirements, reassessments, demands for payments, and penalties, is demanding even for experts.

"Without understanding how the various tax credits work, a sole parent is supposed to respond by getting a job, any job. The In Work Tax Credit, Family Tax Credit and others all have different rules. The required fixed weekly hours of work are far too difficult to police and monitor consistently in a modern, casualised labour market. Furthermore, parents at home looking after young children are already working but their contribution is devalued and their children side-lined."

CPAG has made ten recommendations to improve income support for families and address child poverty, including abolishing sanctions on the income of beneficiaries with dependent children, restoring the principle of equal treatment for all low income children and gaining cross party support for an overhaul of all parts of the welfare and tax credit system that affect families with children.

Download the full report here: Adequate incomes to address child poverty

Our Children, Our Choice brings together five policy papers released by CPAG in the lead up to the election and calls for cross party agreement to underpin an action plan to reduce child poverty in New Zealand.


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