Dennis McKinlay, Executive Director at UNICEF NZ, is confident that the investment approach to alleviating poverty for children (recommended by the Expert Advisory Group that reported to the Children’s Commissioner in the Issues and Options Paper) is the right way to address the persistent poverty that costs our nation over $6b per year in remedial services and even more in lost opportunity and potential.
Mr McKinlay said, “We are encouraged that this paper proposes short term strategies which, given political will, could reasonably quickly begin to benefit the interests of all New Zealanders.
“Targets to reduce poverty; a Child Poverty Act to establish how we measure poverty; reforming the tax credits and having benefits linked to inflation; feeding children in schools; improving housing; and ensuring better access to health and child care services and flexibility in models of delivery can all go a long way to getting it right for every child.”
Longer term solutions such as a universal benefit for every child up to six years old and improving the quality and variety of health care were viable proposals and longitudinal studies to assess the impact of changes are needed. This echoes the recent unified statement of a large group of NGO’s in a recent Briefing Paper collated by UNICEF NZ.
The group agreed that child poverty, addressing inequality, support for families and priority to investment in children are at the core of enhancing child wellbeing and building a better future.
The Expert Advisory Group also noted the importance of decent affordable housing - 70% of all children in poverty live in rental accommodation. Often this is low-grade and inadequate, contributing to a wider range of problems including health. There is also a shortage of housing, with Auckland alone needing an extra 10-15,000 extra homes.
“We have one chance to get it right for every child,” Mr McKinlay said. “If we fail the 25% of children who live in poverty now, we are storing up intractable problems for the future which will have far-reaching consequences for our country’s future health and prosperity.”
There is opportunity for comment on the EAG/ Children’s Commissioner proposals until 12 October. Revisions and costings will be completed before the final report goes to Government in December.