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Expert Advisory Group brings welcome focus to child poverty

1000 days to get it right for every child: Expert Advisory Group brings welcome focus to child poverty

Every Child Counts welcomes the focus and breadth of the proposals to reduce child poverty and mitigate its impacts on children released by the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) today. We urge all political parties and communities to consider the proposals carefully and respond positively with feedback that strengthens the recommendations, which will be finalised later in the year.

“The Issues and Options Paper released by the Expert Advisory Group will undoubtedly generate healthy debate and will highlight whether or not New Zealanders are prepared to meet the needs of some of our most vulnerable children. Around 270,000 children are in poverty using the 60 percent of median income measure. 40 percent of Pasifika children and 27 percent of Maori children are in poverty,” says Liz Gibbs, Chair of Every Child Counts.

“The best solution to poverty is for all parents to be healthy and educated enough to participate in work that pays enough to meet their family’s needs, with childcare in place that also supports the wellbeing of children. But where that isn’t possible it is incumbent on the government and communities to ensure that children do not carry the burden of poverty.

“Every Child Counts is particularly pleased that the EAG proposals identify the need for an investment approach to our nation’s youngest children. Co-chair of the EAG, Jonathan Boston, made the statement in a briefing yesterday that the evidence regarding cost savings and social benefits from investment early in children’s lives in indisputable. Our recent reports, ‘1000 days to get it right for every child’ (August 2011), ‘He Ara Hou’ (September 2011) and ‘The Netherlands Study’ (August 2012) all confirm this.

“Children in the very early years of life are particularly vulnerable to severe and persistent poverty, which has lasting impacts on health and future education outcomes. The social and economic costs of leaving one-fifth of the nation’s children in poverty are extremely high and many New Zealanders are beginning to question the wisdom of sitting at the bottom of the OECD on child wellbeing measures.

“The EAG has correctly identified the need for a Child Poverty Act to set measures and indicators in law and we welcome the recommendation for new measures and indicators relevant to Maori and Pasifika communities. This is a recommendation that Every Child Counts made following the publication of ‘He Ara Hou’ last year.

“As many people recognise, there is an urgent need to address the quality and affordability of housing, and build up the stock of social housing. The EAG proposes a Warrant-of-Fitness for housing – a measure that Every Child Counts has also been advocating for and which many New Zealanders will support.

“In the longer-term, the EAG suggests the implementation of a child payment paid universally to families, and providing a higher level of support for children under 6 years of age. There is ample evidence across the OECD that universal support for families with children achieves much better results in the alleviation of poverty than targeting does.

“Poverty is an issue that our nation needs to get its head around and be prepared to respond to. Frontline staff in the agencies within Every Child Counts are confronted with the disturbing realities of poverty every day – the infectious diseases and social exclusion that leave small children scarred for life.

“The EAG proposals draw on the very best evidence and build on the many reports published over recent years that identify solutions to this urgent issue.

“The proposals will provide an opportunity for New Zealanders to decide whether or not this country will meet its legal and moral obligations to provide the necessities of life to children. They contain practical solutions – including the provision of food in schools - that can be taken immediately if we have the political and public will to tackle this issue of national significance.

“It is time New Zealand made a commitment to urgently progressing solutions to poverty so that children live in warm, dry homes, with adequate nutrition, and with access to the goods and services they need to achieve optimal health,” concludes Liz Gibbs.

Every Child Counts is a coalition of organisations and individuals working to improve the status and wellbeing of NZ children, driven by Barnardos, Plunket, UNICEF, Save the Children, and Ririki. www.everychildcounts.org.nz

ENDS

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