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Take a step to end child poverty

Child food

By Metiria Tūrei

A country like New Zealand should not allow children to go hungry, to not have shoes and warm clothes, live in cold damp homes, and be set up to fail in life.

There are 270,000, or one in four, New Zealand children living in poverty.

Last week I launched a campaign to encourage New Zealanders to “take a step” to end child poverty.

We will use the campaign to roll out ideas and actions people can take to try reduce child poverty.

A good first step is to email John Key and urge him to support my member’s bill which will give all children who need it the same child payment that other children get.

The In-work Tax Credit has halved poverty among non-beneficiary children.

But it’s made no difference at all to one in five children whose parents study or receive a benefit. They aren’t allowed the payment, and more than 70 percent of these kids remain living in poverty.

My Income Tax (Universalisation of In-work Tax Credit) Amendment would extend the tax credits to the children of beneficiary and student families.

It is due for a first reading soon.

There are all sorts of actions we can take to make a difference on child poverty. I think it’s an issue that New Zealanders deeply care about, but the Government is failing to act.

In fact any positive suggestion is knocked back.

The Children’s Commissioner’s recent report made very carefully considered suggestions to help. One was to provide a universal child allowance. John Key said that was dopey. We suggested a targeted allowance. Again he knocked that idea back, but hasn’t come up with any alternatives.

Worse still the National Government is actually taking actions to make life harder for those struggling the most.

Beneficiary parents are going to have to meet new requirements including sending their kids to crèche or other early childhood education despite there being problems with access and transport.

Background papers on the changes show the National Government expects that around 2,200 parents will not comply with the obligations and hence will have their benefit cut.

How immoral for the National Government to punish children for the perceived sins of their parents.

It also recently pushed through the Social Security Amendment Bill which will make life harder for single and young parents, but rejected a Green Party proposal that would have protected children hit by the changes.

Those changes will also see parents lose their income and it will be the children who suffer.

All Kiwi kids deserve a good life and a fair future.

It is time we all took a step to change.

Metiria Tūrei is co-leader of the Green Party

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