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Green MP slams Government’s child poverty efforts

25 November 2004

Green MP slams Government’s child poverty efforts

Despite its election promise to end child poverty, the Government has failed the alarming number of children living in sub-standard conditions, Green MP Sue Bradford says.

Ms Bradford’s comments follow a paper critical of the Government, delivered today by Oxford University social scientist Ryan Orange, at a Ministry of Social Development conference in Wellington.

“It’s a disgrace that the Government had failed New Zealand’s children,” Ms Bradford said. “It’s critical that the Government listens to the messages coming from the conference and acts quickly on child poverty.”

Mr Orange said in his paper that while both the New Zealand and British Labour Governments had stated their intention to eliminate child poverty, there was little evidence that New Zealand had succeeded.

“Both governments were elected at the end of a decade in which their countries had led the world in growth of income inequality,” Mr Orange’s paper said. “Although both governments have ‘talked the talk’, it is the United Kingdom Labour Government that has been comparatively successful in implementing policies and establishing measurement tools for pursuing the elimination of child poverty.”

Mr Orange said on the basis of available official indicators, Britain had achieved a significant reduction in the number of children living in poverty since 1999 but the same could not be said about New Zealand.

Ms Bradford said during the last election the Greens had campaigned hard on ending child poverty and they were disappointed by the Government’s sluggish response to this problem.

“Successive Governments have known that around a third of our children are growing up either on or below the poverty line but fixing the problem has never been a priority.

“In its briefing papers to the incoming Government of 2002, the Ministry of Social Development stated that poverty was a critical issue facing New Zealand children, and it was time for Labour to heed the voices not only of the NGO community through reports like ‘Making it Happen’, but also of its own Department.”

“The flow-on effects of child poverty are far reaching. As the report noted, there is a clear relationship between poverty and health, education, child development, social and family relationships and housing. It is so crucial for the long term future of this country that we break the cycle of poverty.”

Green policy is to end child poverty by 2010 through a range of measures including a universal child benefit, affordable housing, and raising wage and benefit levels.

ENDS

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