UNICEF is a politically-neutral organisation, but we also have a mandate to speak up for children everywhere. We are doing so because in New
Zealand not everything is right for every child.
As New Zealand prepares to go to the polls, UNICEF NZ is looking at key issues that are affecting Kiwis — and asking all New Zealanders to think of how their vote could be used to help our children.
When we talk children living in poverty, we are not talking about rates or definitions.
We are talking about our children.
We are talking about some of the most vulnerable members of our society growing up without basic things they need to grow and thrive.
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We need a longterm Education plan that will ensure inclusive education, minimise the privatisation of education, and ensure schools remain the hub of the community in an ever-changing world.
We need leaders committed to Te Reo in schools (as well as Sign, because these are our nation's first languages alongside English).
Appropriate teacher/child ratios, a child-centred approach to education reform, and an independent complaints mechanism are just some of the measures needed to ensure quality education is assured for every child.
Our population is growing and changing. Children need a fully funded health system to ensure they have the care they need when they are born and when they are unwell. But children also need a social environment where it's hard to get unwell, and to create this environment takes policy and regulations.
When children or members of their family have mental health needs and/or disabilities, they must be cared for respectfully and see that those that support them are valued in our society.
Equity is a right for every child, and eliminating poverty is the first of the Sustainable Development Goals. Children from poor communities are at much greater risk of dying as babies, being injured or ending up in hospital with the illnesses of developing countries. They don't do as well at school, have more serious mental health issues, leave school earlier, are more likely to face unemployment and to be involved in crime.
Income distribution in NZ is highly unequal and the gender pay-gap persists despite decades old legislation to ensure pay equity. Longitudinal research has shown over half of NZ households experience at least one year of income poverty after the arrival of a child. We need income measures that will enable adults to raise children without financial uncertainty and stress.
Over 3,500 convictions are recorded against men in NZ each year for assaults on women. That's with only 20% of abuse cases thought to be reported.
Beyond this exposure to the violence perpetrated between adults, too many children themselves suffer violent abuse by their caregivers in caregiving environments. It's Government's responsibility to bring about change in these violent cultural patterns of our society. The work begins with Leaders who enforce gender equality and resource respect through intervention and protection laws and regulations.
At least 41,000 New Zealanders are in housing crisis according to the current Census, a 24% increase from the last Census. 51% of this population are under 25 years old. This insecurity impacts on their education and ability to find work.
In NZ's lower income quintiles more than 6 out of every 10 households report damp, mouldy, cold or over-crowded conditions. The result for little ones is high asthma and respiratory disease, infections and other poor health outcomes. 42% of sole-parent beneficiary households and over half the Accommodation Supplement receivers of NZ spend more than half their income on household costs: their incomes.
It's time to put a stop to speculation in NZ's housing stock and introduce regulations that protect the rights of renters across NZ.