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Budget a missed opportunity for the nation's children

Media release from Every Child Counts

Budget a missed opportunity for the nation's children

The government Budget delivered today has missed the opportunity to significantly improve the living conditions of families in hardship and alleviate the impact of poverty on children, says Every Child Counts*.

“Today’s Budget will do little to address the crisis of poverty and genuine hardship faced by children who are living in deep and persistent poverty,” says Deborah Morris-Travers, Every Child Counts manager.

“Government policy has the single-biggest impact on social and economic wellbeing. The measures announced today are small step in the right direction but they will have a limited impact on the children who most need additional support from the State.

“The Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty (EAG) identified a suite of short- and long-term solutions to poverty, requiring sustained and concerted effort by government. This Budget responds to some of the recommendations such as trialing a Warrant of Fitness for rental housing and providing low- or no-interest loans to address problem debt.

“However, there is little else that will alleviate the pressure on our most vulnerable families. We hope this will be addressed when the government provides its formal response to the EAG and makes further announcements in the coming weeks.

“The Budget does show that housing is moving up the government’s list of priorities and this is a welcome development. While the new investment in housing is modest compared to the high level of need that exists, the government’s focus on the quality of housing, building up social housing, and reconfiguring State houses are all useful initiatives. However, we are concerned that some groups of Housing NZ tenants will no longer have secure tenancies. International experience shows that stable tenancies are a vital part of supporting children’s education. We encourage the government to maintain a focus on housing and support the growth of social housing in New Zealand.

“Every Child Counts welcomes the additional investment of $21.3m over four years in the fight against rheumatic fever – and it is good to see that some of the new money will address housing quality, which is an underlying cause of New Zealand’s high rates of rheumatic fever and other infectious diseases.

“We are also pleased to see the new investment that will go into education for ‘Positive Behaviour for Learning’, ‘Connecting Communities’ and ‘Targeted Assistance for Participation’ in Early Childhood Education. All of these initiatives work to improve the engagement of children and families in education, with a view to increasing the likelihood of educational success.

“It has to be said that poor nutrition and limited access to food in schools will undermine the new investments in rheumatic fever prevention and education because malnourished children have compromised immune systems and cannot focus on learning.

“We look forward to the government's full response to the recommendations in the EAG report, including food in schools. We hope that process will deliver measurable progress to improve the lives of children. There is much more that needs to be done.

“As we have said before, the opportunities for improving child wellbeing in Aotearoa NZ are numerous, and include:

• Establishing a shared vision for government and community action that prioritises children

• Developing a coordinated, whole-of-government approach to policy for children, sustained beyond a three-year parliamentary term

• Ensuring that policy and law are consistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

• Monitoring and evaluating the impact of policies on children and progress towards an agreed set of targets

• Ensuring parents are well-supported within their extended families, communities and our wider society

• Increasing the education and health of parents, with family learning and literacy programmes, community hubs and food in schools

• Prioritising our nation's youngest children for public investment, with a particular focus on housing and poverty alleviation, and

• Building connected, child-friendly communities.

“We encourage the government to develop a stronger focus on children – particularly the youngest children, those in poverty and those in homes where they may be vulnerable. We are always happy to contribute to political thinking about the opportunities for improving life for children because the returns on effective investment in them are significant and important for all New Zealanders,” concludes Ms Morris-Travers.

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


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