By Metiria Turei
The National Government has created conditions for more children to be at risk of abuse and to live in poverty.
That’s why its White Paper on Vulnerable Children and its Children’s Action Plan released yesterday have such a narrow focus.
It beggars belief that the Government could write a plan to help vulnerable children without addressing the one thing that makes them more at risk than anything else - and that’s poverty.
During its time in office the National Government has made it incredibly easy for people to be dropped off benefits and difficult to get reinstated so there’s no safety net for these folks to support their families.
The National Government has destroyed jobs, unemployment has risen and protections for workers have been eroded under its watch.
It has ignored growing public concerns about little kids living in damp, cold houses and not having enough to eat.
It rejects out of hand ideas that would make a difference.
Prime Minister John Key described the Children’s Commissioner’s expert group’s recommendation of a universal child payment, which reaches the poorest kids, as “dopey”.
He will not support my Bill, to get its first reading on Wednesday, to extend the In-work Tax Credit to the children of beneficiaries, part-time workers and students.
That would be a highly targeted payment to ensure the poorest children would get the same child payment that has helped other children out of poverty.
The White Paper was an enormous opportunity to do something meaningful for our most vulnerable children, to prevent them from becoming at risk in the first place.
The National Government has consciously chosen to ignore the 270,000 children in poverty.
Our kids need a Minister for Children, a Children’s Act, and child impact assessments that ensure that everything the Government does, it does in the interests of children.
There are some good things in yesterday’s announcement, but I was concerned to see a database is to be used that targets only the children of beneficiaries.
It would be far better to take up Plunket’s recommendation for a health database for all children.
The White Paper itself talks about how, unless support mechanisms are universal, they will not pick up on all at-risk children as most don’t wave a red flag to identify themselves.
That’s why so many agreed with Plunket’s recommendation to stop children at risk of abuse and neglect from going unnoticed.
The National Government has left more children vulnerable by failing to deal with the root causes – poverty and family stress.
Metiria Turei is co-leader of the Green Party