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Measurement of child poverty a necessary step

Media release from Every Child Counts

1000 days to get it right for every child: Measurement of child poverty a necessary step

Recent debate in Parliament’s question time about whether or not the measurement of child poverty is important will cause concern for the many New Zealanders who want government action on poverty, says Every Child Counts*.

“The Minister for Social Development, Hon Paula Bennett has responded to questions about poverty saying that measuring poverty was less important than taking action to alleviate it and that children move in an out of poverty on a weekly basis.

“While we agree that it is essential that action is taken to lift children out of poverty, the only way to measure the impact of government policies and ensure that policies are evidence-based is to measure their impact,” says Liz Gibbs, Chair of Every Child Counts.

“Using an income measure of poverty it may be possible to argue that some children are moving out of poverty on a weekly basis. However, a more useful measure is to look at the consumption patterns of those families to assess their level of deprivation. This is because a change in income that comes about after a long period in deep poverty is unlikely to immediately improve the ability of children to access nutritious food and medical care because of debt and the fact that moving into work brings with it additional transport costs, childcare and other costs.

“And this gets to the nub of the issue: New Zealand needs to agree an official measure of poverty that is consistent with OECD measures and includes BOTH income levels and the ability of children to access the goods and services they need to ensure their health. This is especially important in a time of recession but it is also an important underpinning of robust policy making.

“The most recent UNICEF Innocenti Report Card on poverty in rich nations identified a crisis in the monitoring of child poverty and confirmed that not protecting children from poverty stores up intractable social and economic problems in the years ahead. The report says that leaving children in poverty is “one of the most costly mistakes a society can make”. Every Child Counts has been working to highlight the economic cost of child poverty in New Zealand – which is estimated at $6bn per annum, at least.

“It is highly concerning that policies are made in an apparent vacuum, without child impact assessments and without an official poverty line to determine whether or not policies are improving child wellbeing. This situation has been perpetuated by successive governments due to a lack of commitment to address the deepest poverty, which is among sole parent families and those on benefits.

“The UNICEF Innocenti report shows that governments most likely to be successful at protecting children from poverty are those that strive to reduce the numbers of low-income households and help to provide essential goods, services and opportunities for children.

“As such, we welcome the introduction to Parliament of the Income Tax (Universalisation of In-work Tax Credit) Amendment Bill because it will provide an opportunity for debate about the additional financial support children in beneficiary homes need and how best to provide it,” concludes Liz Gibbs.

© Scoop Media

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