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UNICEF NZ Statement on Child Poverty Monitor

UNICEF NZ Statement on Child Poverty Monitor, Released Today by OCC

The inaugural Child Poverty Monitor, released today (Monday, 9 December) by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC), JR McKenzie Trust and the NZ Child and Youth Epidemiology Service at Otago University, contains some deeply concerning figures. However, it is an important step forward for tracking how well New Zealand is doing in giving children the standard of living they need.

Deborah Morris-Travers, UNICEF New Zealand Advocacy Manager, said, “It’s of significant concern that 10% of Kiwi Kids – twice the rate of the New Zealand population as a whole – are living in severe poverty.

“These children are living in homes with low incomes and suffer material hardship that means they go without basic things like fruit and vegetables and a warm house. They are more susceptible to the respiratory illness and skin diseases reported on in the technical report behind the Child Poverty Monitor.

“Sadly, some of these children will also go without visits to the doctors and the medicines they need, until they are so ill they require hospitalisation. In the period 2008-2012 there were 40,050 hospital admissions for conditions associated with socio-economic status.

“We are also concerned that some groups of children are disproportionately represented in poverty statistics, with young, Māori and Pasifika children in important developmental stages, more likely to be in poverty than others. The Monitor shows that babies between 29 days and 1 year old are especially vulnerable to the infectious diseases of poverty.

“The Monitor tells us that 159,000 children (60% of those in poverty) are living in poverty for long periods of time. Living in persistent poverty will undermine a child’s physical, mental, emotional and social wellbeing with the potential for long-term damage.

“While the figures released today are very worrying, there are improvements in the numbers of children reliant on benefits. There are also signs of reductions in injury rates and hospitalisations for maltreatment. While caution is needed with these figures, any reduction in hospitalisations is positive and we would hope to see this maintained.

“The Child Poverty Monitor itself is a welcome initiative because annual monitoring of income poverty, material hardship, severe poverty and persistent poverty, means we’ll have a good understanding of whether government policies and community responses are improving the lives of these vulnerable children. Data is critical for government to develop policy and initiatives that will address disparities.

“The partnership between the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, JR McKenzie Trust and the NZ Child and Youth Epidemiology Service at Otago University, highlights that people in a range of sectors are concerned about children living in poverty. It also demonstrates what can be achieved when people work together in the interests of children.

“As a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, New Zealand is obliged to ensure that all children have a standard of living that supports their development. The Child Poverty Monitor reinforces our view that efforts to implement the Convention have been patchy and slow, as highlighted in UNICEF New Zealand’s Kids Missing Out report released last week.

“We hope the Child Poverty Monitor will add impetus to current efforts to address the urgent issue of children in poverty and assist all New Zealanders in their understanding of why families with children must be a national priority for investment and support.”

- ENDS -

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