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ComVoices: Child action plan must address wider causes of poverty

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Community sector organisations are welcoming the opportunity to hold a robust discussion on how New Zealand cares for its most vulnerable children.

Members of ComVoices, an independent network of community sector organisations, said the green paper presented some difficult choices - and discussion about those choices must go hand-in-hand with addressing the real causes of poverty for children and their families.

ANGOA Coordinator Dave Henderson said the green paper finally puts the spotlight on the true impact poverty is having on Kiwi children.

"This paper has data in it that many NGOs have been seeking for years. The statistics show the compounding issues that come with poverty in New Zealand and the impact it is having on nearly 20 per cent of Kiwi kids who are living in poverty every day.

"This green paper blows the lid on what poverty actually looks like. The fact that 7,342 school leavers left with no qualification in 2009 and 83,000 Kiwi kids go to school without breakfast sometimes or always, or that 22 per cent of households with children sometimes or often run out of food because of lack of money.

"Any opportunity to enforce measureable targets will be vital to locking New Zealand into making real progress in addressing the very poor record that successive Governments have had in caring for our kids."

Executive Director of the New Zealand Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations, Tina Reid, said there needs to be a rounded package of measures to help at risk children and it should not involve cutting spending for other vulnerable groups.

"We're being asked to make hard choices about spending. But what we need to look at are ways we can focus the existing services and funding we have, rather than cutting back services to other vulnerable people."

Executive Officer of Ara Taiohi, Sonya Hogan added that, "by the same token, early intervention for our youngest children should not have to come at the expense of at risk adolescents and teenagers. We need to give all children the chance to thrive."

Dave Henderson of ANGOA said the best way to address the limited resources available is to take a long-term approach to prevent children from falling into poverty in the first place.

"We know the risks once children are there, and while it's critical the most vulnerable children get help straight away, if we focus on interventions rather than prevention we're just applying a band aid to a gaping wound."

The Welfare Working Group's recommendations would also be crucial in considering the Child Action Plan. ComVoices members have already highlighted their concerns that the Government will take a punitive approach to the Welfare Working Group's recommendations which would counter any positive steps forward that a Child Action Plan might make.

Jonathan Tautari of CCS Disability Action said our hope is that a Child Action Plan that involves Government Ministers specifically commenting on the impact of policies on vulnerable children and their families would start to make a real difference in the way that policy is formed.

"We are pleased that the Government has finally recognised there is a need to introduce some accountability for what is happening to our children. We recognise there will be some strong debate around privacy issues, increased monitoring and information sharing between professionals. But we're confident that with kids at the centre, we'll be able to find some common ground on these issues."

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