When John Key was elected for a third term, he promised to make tackling child poverty a priority. Sadly, this never happened. Child poverty never got the attention it needed from the National Government. And this looks like continuing under the new Prime Minister. This week saw a warning from the Children’s Commissioner that child poverty is significant and enduring, and not enough is being done to ensure kids get the best possible start.
Far too many children are still going without the very basic requirements for living, like keeping warm in winter, being able to replace worn-out shoes, or having food. Almost a third of children growing up in Aotearoa are doing so in low income homes where they just are not getting the opportunities that they deserve.
The National Government needs to stop playing politics with children’s lives and at a bare minimum agree to child poverty measures and reduction targets to address child poverty. Bill English could pick this up as a feature of his time as Prime Minister, it would be a significant legacy.
Child poverty is not inevitable. It is solvable in this generation but we need to have a Government that commits to that goal, which National won’t do. When in Government, the Green Party will implement real measures to address child poverty such as feeding kids in schools and ensuring every child lives in a warm, dry, and secure house.
There are hundreds of thousands of kids going to school hungry every day, and living in cold, mouldy houses. Thousands more kids than when National was first elected are getting sick with poverty-related illness such as acute upper respiratory infections and skin infections. The housing crisis and growing homelessness problem are exacerbating our kid’s health problems. We desperately need a Government that cares about this stuff, one that will put kids at the centre of their planning. Child poverty needs to be addressed, and no more children should be growing up in Aotearoa in poverty.
The Government’s inaction on child poverty has shown that it is out of step with New Zealand, both with the extent of child poverty, and the desire for ordinary Kiwis to do something about it. Every child deserves to have enough to thrive, and we need policies to ensure they can. There are too many hungry kids out there.