National must end ideological opposition to raising income

If John Key is serious about tackling child poverty he must approach it with an open mind, and overcome his ideological block to raising incomes as a solution, the Green Party said today.

Papers released to Radio New Zealand today show that officials' advice to Government Ministers is that raising incomes was "positively associated with virtually every aspects of child wellbeing that is measured". The advice was to inform Ministers' response to the solutions recommended by the Children's Commissioners' Expert Group on Child Poverty.

"This is just the latest of several reports telling the Government that families just aren't paid enough to provide the basics for their children. In a country like New Zealand that is completely unacceptable," Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said.

"If John Key is serious about doing anything meaningful to tackle child poverty he must improve incomes. It's a no brainer."

The papers show up to a quarter of Kiwi children don't have access to an adequate family income. Poverty was not a matter of "relative disadvantage" here, but rather 10 to 15 percent of kids lead lives "markedly different from those of the vast majority of children, even those from families with only fairly modest living standards"

The papers go on to say: "Many of the items that these children have a much greater likelihood of going without are of fundamental importance to child health and wellbeing - for example, having warm winter clothes, a separate bed, good supply of fresh fruit and vegetables."

"It is astonishing that in the face of the evidence about the extent of poverty and deprivation, National dismissed outright the Green Party's calls for a substantial increase in the minimum wage, and more help for children whose parents are reliant on a benefit," Mrs Turei said.

"The advice about the extent of child poverty blows National's long held views around poverty being 'relative' out of the water. And they suggest that the single focus on work as a solution to poverty isn't working.

"Officials point out that 16 percent of all Kiwi children are trapped in chronic poverty and deprivation for seven or more years of their childhood, and National's idea that their family income will eventually rise through work wasn't true for them. They also point out that 40 per cent of kids in poverty have parents in full time work.

"The National Government must break free of its ideological mantra that work alone is the solution to child poverty, and ensure both that work pays enough to provide the basics and that children get enough state support when their families can't work.

"This strategy of keeping working families in poverty, and then forcing families reliant on a benefit into even more dire poverty as some kind of 'incentive', must end.

"It's no wonder National ministers refused to release this advice, despite being ordered to by the Ombudsman, until after the election.

"New Zealanders want solutions to child poverty. That solution is a decent income,' Mrs Turei said.