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Is it okay for children to suffer in poverty?

Is it okay for children to suffer in poverty?

“I find many people are shocked by the poverty of others, but still blame the poor themselves!” says Rebecca Occleston of Beneficiary Advisory Service, Christchurch. “Why don’t they feed their children better? Why should we have to? (and other judgemental questions). At the end of the day whether they can’t or won’t (yeah, it IS generally can’t! but that is not the point today) isn’t relevant if we are thinking about the children. Is it okay for us to let these children suffer in poverty? What does suffering in poverty even mean? It means not eating right, living in sub-standard (or no) housing, being unable to learn properly (due to avoidable illnesses, poor nutrition, hunger, worry about money and other family issues, and even not being able to afford to manage their menstrual cycle!), being permanently scarred from illnesses, and potentially being dependent on the welfare system for a lot longer than those with opportunities.

“What can we do? We can not judge for a start. That doesn’t help anyone. We can support programmes that ensure each child eats a nutritious meal every day. Many of these are supported by charities and we can encourage the Government to finance them. We can encourage the Government to have a sustainable living wage as a minimum wage so more workers are not suffering in poverty. We can support raising of basic benefit levels and bringing back the Special Benefit to support those currently on benefits to have sufficient means to support their families (including those living in expensive cities and/or with high medical costs).

“We can look at the problem and make the right choice for two main reasons. (1) It is the moral thing to do – supporting everyone in this country so they are able to have enough for their basic costs, participate in society have the dignity they deserve as people and (2) It is the financially viable thing to do – putting some money right now into ending child poverty (by raising benefits, raising the minimum wage, raising WFF (and including beneficiary families in that), having sufficient social housing available, financing charities that help feed and clothe the poor, making medical help free for all children and affordable for all adults) will save a lot of money in the future in hospital bills, housing costs and welfare etc.

“So let us all make the right choices: to stop judging others, whose lives we know nothing about, and support everyone in this country to live a full, productive and meaningful life. Together, we can make this happen.”

Rebecca Occleston is the Speaker for Beneficiary Advisory Service (BAS)

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