Child poverty gets worse

Do you remember how Jacinda Ardern was going to fix child poverty? Guess what? She hasn’t. Not only that, things are getting worse for those on benefits and low incomes.  That is what ideology will do. Stuff reports: quote.

The Salvation Army helped 15,795 Kiwi children this Christmas with the support of donations from the public.

“We’ve seen high demand this Christmas and 2019 will remain an uphill battle for these families as they prepare for the school year,” said Major Pam Waugh, head of welfare services.

“Extra expenses over the holiday period with kids home from school are an added cost to families living on low incomes.”

The Child Poverty Monitor report found one in five children under the age of 15 experience moderate to severe food insecurity.

“That’s between 161,000 and 188,000 New Zealand children who can’t count on having regular nutritious meals,” Waugh said.

“Those figures are upsetting, but not surprising.”

But after Christmas, the start of the school year brings more financial strain with stationery, uniforms and transport costs.

Clinical psychologist Dougal Sutherland said the struggle extended beyond physical needs for children living in poverty and stress on the developing brain can have a major effect on mental health.

“Children are the victims of circumstance and can’t escape the weight of poverty. Prolonged poverty can lead to a lack of hope and lower self-worth ? major factors in crime and youth suicide,” Sutherland said. end quote.

I know it is disingenuous to claim that poverty can be fixed in a short time, but Jacinda claimed that the reason she went into politics was to fix child poverty. 15 months into her government’s first term, how is it that things are actually getting worse, not better?

The Families Package was introduced earlier this year, and the Child Poverty Bill was passed just before Christmas, but even with extra money in the pockets of families, the struggle continues, unabated.

The Stuff article was essentially an advert for the Salvation Army, asking people to donate to their Christmas appeal. It made no political statement at all, but to me the whole thing just proves beyond doubt that throwing money at the problem is not going to fix it any time soon. quote.

The Child Poverty Monitor report found one in five children under the age of 15 experience moderate to severe food insecurity. end quote.


First of all, the name ‘child poverty’ is a misnomer. This is not Cinderella territory. Poor children live in poor families. That is what needs to be addressed.

Secondly, more welfare is not the answer. An extra $50 per week, generous though it is from a taxpayer’s point of view, is not going to solve the problems for families living on the breadline. Families need good incomes to thrive, and for that, parents need to be in work.

I have a very good friend who is a mental health nurse, and she cites hopelessness as the main cause of depression and suicide. For a lot of people, being locked in the poverty trap is a cause of that hopelessness. They cannot see a way out, and as a result, mental illness and even suicide is often the result.

Education, training and a decent job at the end of it is the answer for everyone. It is not just about the money. Going to work brings with it a certain amount of self respect, along with a pay packet at the end of the week.

If Jacinda’s answer to ‘child poverty’ is to increase welfare for families, she is doing nothing to break the cycle of hopelessness. It will just go on and on.

The sad part is that the way out of poverty, education, is freely available to everyone, but those who do not take advantage of what is on offer are the ones who feel the hopelessness the most. That is the worst thing.

No amount of increasing welfare is going to fix this problem. Children and families need paid work, education and training for a better future. However as Labour’s only answer seems to be putting small extra amounts of money into families’ pockets from time to time, the problem is not going to be solved soon. Probably not in Jacinda’s lifetime, let alone in her time in politics.

Credit: Al Nisbet