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Kids Missing Out – time to make progress on children’s rights

5th December 2013 Posted in: Campaigns and Advocacy, Press Releases
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Twenty years after New Zealand ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC), a UNICEF New Zealand report has found New Zealand still has considerable work to do to meet its obligations.

The report ‘Kids Missing Out’, authored by youth law expert Robert Ludbrook, is a stock-take of the nation’s progress in respecting the human rights of our children.

It notes that while New Zealand has made some positive developments, such as the repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act, free health visits for under six year olds, and the Working for Families package providing additional income to some low income working families, 270,000 children are still living in poverty, without adequate income or housing.

The UNCROC aims to ensure that every child has a healthy, happy childhood, with enough food; access to medical care; spending time with family and friends; being kept safe; being listened to and treated with respect; going to school; having a warm place to live; and being part of a supportive community.

UNICEF New Zealand Advocacy Manager Deborah Morris-Travers says the report found that despite New Zealand’s promise to uphold these rights for children, New Zealand has seen significant increases in infectious diseases in children; high rates of child maltreatment; children hurt while working; children detained in police cells and tried in the adult justice system; and significant inequalities between different groups of children.

“Although the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has made repeated recommendations, New Zealand has failed to incorporate UNCROC into its domestic law, or given priority to addressing child poverty,” says Ms Morris-Travers. 

UNICEF New Zealand Executive Director Dennis McKinlay says New Zealand will only achieve equitable outcomes for children once we ensure early and effective investment in them.

“With the UN Committee highlighting the inequities between groups of children, policies like Working for Families should be expanded to reach the children not currently receiving adequate support,” says McKinlay.

“‘Kids Missing Out’ clearly shows that the government must invest in all of our children, and underpin that with policies that reflect the equity principles of the Convention of the Rights of the Child which we have agreed to and ratified.”

To begin to fulfil its UNCROC obligations, the report has three key recommendations for the New Zealand government:
  1.   The creation of a permanent mechanism to facilitate and co-ordinate UNCROC implementation.
  2.   A UNCROC Plan of Action that identifies where our children’s rights are not being met, and sets out what needs to be done, by who, when and how it will be monitored.
  3.   Prioritising reform of our adoption laws and raising the legal age of recognition as a child to eighteen.

Report author Robert Ludbrook says there are inherent weaknesses in government processes, such as poor data collection and exclusion from decision-making which result in our children missing out on basic protections. “Human rights are not just a ‘nice to have’, they are fundamental to achieving good outcomes for children. Children will be healthier, do better in school, and be more engaged citizens when we ensure that their rights have been met,” says Mr Ludbrook.

The report is being launched at a public event in Wellington at 9am on Thursday 5 December at Spectrum Theatre, Cnr of Customhouse Quay and Johnston Street. 

In support of the ‘Kids Missing Out’ report, UNICEF is encouraging all Kiwis to sign its petition on Change.org urging the government to implement the Convention. 

The petition says:
“We, the undersigned, urge the government and all parliamentarians to work together to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and make rights real for all children in New Zealand by taking steps to ensure that every child;
•    always has their best interests considered and is able to grow up safely and well, guided and supported by their families and communities;
•    has a standard of living, healthcare and education that maximises their wellbeing and enables them to reach their full potential; and
•    can participate in decisions affecting them and influence the world around them

Download the full Kids Missing Out report (PDF, 903KB)

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