This election, we’ve asked New Zealand’s political parties exactly what they are planning to do for children. The answers are illuminating.
UNICEF NZ created a survey which assessed their commitment to lifting children out of poverty. We selected five evidence-based policy solutions for low incomes, family violence, housing, poor health, and education, and asked parties whether they would commit to them in the next electoral term or not. If candidates weren't prepared to commit one way or another, an option was provided to skip the question and opt for alternative policy statements instead.
We also provided a 'need more evidence' option, to help guide our advocacy over the coming three years. With the survey results, UNICEF NZ created scorecards to be shared with the Tick 4 Kids network - a coalition of organisations dedicated to helping children.
We also hope that members of the public will use the scorecards to help make up their minds when deciding who to vote for. We want every person to consider the well-being of children when they go to the ballot box.
UNICEF NZ has previously launched public awareness campaigns that highlight the issues facing children in Aotearoa, particularly regarding child poverty. This project is a continuation of that work.
The recent commitment, by both National Leader Bill English and Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern, to reduce child poverty is extremely encouraging. They acknowledged that some New Zealand children are struggling, and it is a situation the country isn’t prepared to accept.
It was during the 2014 election that awareness of child poverty gained traction. When John Key re-entered parliament for a third term, he acknowledged our efforts and the public concerns, with one of his earliest pledges to the nation being to address it over the next electoral term.
Three years on, Sir John Key is no longer the Prime Minister, and in a speech following his recent knighthood, he said one of his regrets was not accomplishing what he had pledged back in 2014.
This indicates is it's not good enough to simply raise awareness of the problems of child inequity and income poverty. Voters do not vote for problems, they vote for solutions.
UNICEF NZ is here to hold parties and Governments to account. We look forward to working with whoever the next Government is, to create a better situation for New Zealand’s children.
Dr Prudence Stone, UNICEF NZ Child Rights Advocacy Manager.