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Money spent on child poverty an investment, not a cost

Money spent on child poverty an investment, not a cost

Public Health Association media release 9 December 2013

New Zealand’s alarming child poverty rates, publicised in the first annual Child Poverty Monitor report released today, should be of serious concern to all New Zealanders, says the Public Health Association (PHA).

PHA Chief Executive Warren Lindberg said poor and unhealthy children lead to poor and unhealthy adults, who not only lead lives of hardship and deprivation, but who are also likely to be unable to provide for the next generation of children.

“We need to change the way we think about spending on the health and wellbeing of children and look at it not as a cost, but as an investment. Children growing up in poor households are more likely to become dependent on welfare, suffer family violence, do poorly at school and rely heavily on government-funded health care. New Zealand society as a whole must decide whether to invest in the health of its children or bear the increasing costs imposed on its health and welfare systems.

“We should also be concerned about the social inequities that result from child poverty in that Maori and Pasifika children fare much worse than their European counterparts.”

According to the Monitor report, in 2012, 265,000 children aged 0-17 years lived in poverty (i.e. in a household with an income below 60 percent of the gross median). This equated to 25 percent of all New Zealand children. Around 30 percent of Maori and Pasifika children lived in poor households compared to 15 percent of European children (page 14). Three out of five children are living in persistent poverty, defined as more than seven years.

Mr Lindberg said the independent nature of the report, issued in partnership by the Children’s Commissioner, the University of Otago and the JR McKenzie Trust provides a useful baseline for addressing child poverty.

“We need to know that investment in reducing child poverty is being used well, and whether money and effort are being directed in the right ways. To do that, we need regular, high quality reports on progress, and the Monitor reports will tell us whether New Zealand is going forward and how we can invest more and better in our children for the future.”

The PHA has previously called for setting targets and monitoring the impacts of poverty on New Zealand children, and supported the recommendations of the 2012 Expert Advisory Group report to the Children’s Commissioner which have led to the creation of the Child Poverty Monitor.

ENDS

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