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Solutions to child poverty must be translated into action

Media release from Every Child Counts

Solutions to child poverty must be translated into political action, now

The comprehensive solutions to child poverty identified by the Expert Advisory Group (EAG) in their report released today, Solutions to Child Poverty in New Zealand: Evidence for Action, provide a clear plan to address one of our nation’s most urgent social and economic issues.

Every Child Counts* urges the Government to translate the plan into action and build cross-party support for the policies to ensure sustained political commitment to end child poverty.

“The EAG included representatives from a range of sectors and from across the political spectrum. Its recommendations are evidence-based, and highlight the need for urgent and sustained action to address the lasting impacts of poverty on children’s ability to participate as equal members of New Zealand,” says Deborah Morris-Travers, Manager of Every Child Counts.

“Child poverty is extremely costly – every year costing at least $6bn in additional health and education costs, as well as reduced productivity. Any government striving for a strong economy and cohesive society must first invest in its children. However, successive governments have failed to address the inter-generational nature of poverty and have left large numbers of children on the margins of political consideration and on the margins of our society.

“The EAG has focused on solutions that reduce severe and persistent child poverty, and has concentrated on young children experiencing poverty. They have responded to the evidence that severe and persistent poverty undermines a child’s future prospects, particularly in the early years. Early intervention is likely to deliver the greatest returns.

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“Importantly, the EAG has correctly identified the need to be sensitive to the particular issues facing children in sole-parent families, as well as disabled children; and they have called for specific attention to overcoming inequalities for Māori and Pasifika, who are twice as likely to be in severe poverty and are also at a higher risk of persistent poverty.

“We welcome the call for a strategic framework to address child poverty, including legislation requiring the measurement of child poverty, the setting of short-term and long-term poverty-reduction targets, the establishment of indicators and reporting on results. Such a framework would help ensure the sustained political commitment needed to address child poverty.

“New Zealand has performed very well when it comes to keeping our elderly population out of poverty, with one of the lowest rates for elderly poverty in the OECD. If we can do it for people over 65, surely we can also do it for children who are in their most important developmental stages?

“Every Child Counts welcomes the short-term actions identified by the EAG for mitigating the impact of child poverty: passing-on child support, establishing a housing warrant-of-fitness, enabling people to get on top of debt through low- or zero-interest loans, a collaborative approach to food in schools, keeping young parents engaged in education, and effective local delivery through community hubs. All of these recommendations are practical and achievable in a short timeframe.

“Clearly, political leadership and courage is needed to address poverty and deprivation. We encourage the Ministerial Committee on Poverty, and all Cabinet Ministers to recognise that leaving child poverty unchecked is unsustainable and unwise. Children must be a top priority. The EAG has set out a plan. We urge the Government to respond positively to the advice provided, and urgently take steps to implement it.

“Taking steps towards addressing child poverty is a political legacy politicians across the political spectrum could be rightly proud of. The time for action is now,” concludes Deborah Morris-Travers.


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