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Surplus should fund a Universal Child Benefit

Use the Budget surplus to fund a Universal Child Benefit

Green MP Sue Bradford is asking why child poverty persists in New Zealand while the Prime Minister is proudly trumpeting the health of the economy and the Finance Minister is sitting atop a huge Budget surplus.

The Child Poverty Action Group has this weekend released ‘Cut Price Kids: Does the 2004 Working for Families Budget work for Children?’, a substantial piece of research by Dr Susan St John and Dr David Craig. It argues that the Government’s ‘Working for Families’ Budget package entrenches an underclass because it ‘leaves around 175,000 of the country’s poorest children with very little help at all’.

“Helen Clark can tell her party conference that the economy is Labour’s election winner, but this new report confirms that their flagship social justice policy has failed to ensure that the healthy indicators and bulging Government coffers are really benefiting the most marginalised families,” said Ms Bradford, the Green Party’s Children’s Affairs and Social Services Spokesperson.

“Frankly it is immoral that child poverty persists in a country with a fat Budget surplus.

“A return to a Universal Child Benefit, something Labour blocked when they voted down my Private Member’s Bill earlier this year, is essential and with a huge Budget surplus the Government has the funds to deliver it. Specifically, allowing parents to once again capitalise such a benefit so they can get a deposit together on their own home would give many families the real lift they need.

“CPAG has echoed the Green view that the Government’s efforts over-emphasise paid work as a way out of poverty. The current policy mix punishes the children of beneficiaries for the ‘sins’ of their parents. While it is heartening that unemployment is falling, low wages, casual jobs and the fact that many families are still dependent on benefits show that jobs on their own don’t solve the problem of child poverty.

“The Government likes to pretend that its policies are addressing the entrenched and ghettoised family poverty that exists in places like South and West Auckland, Northland and the East Coast - they aren’t. ‘Cut Price Kids’ confirms that Working for Families does nowhere near enough for the poorest families in New Zealand as they continue to pay the price of years of Labour and National policies that deliberately caused structural unemployment and poverty.

“The Green Party will continue to push hard on child poverty during and beyond next year’s election campaign,” said Ms Bradford.

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