Child poverty on the increase only because of ridiculous targets

The latest report tells us 29 per cent of children lived in poverty in 2014, up from 24 per cent the previous year. About 14 per cent live in material hardship, lacking several of the items most New Zealanders would consider essential, and three out of five of the 29 per cent in poverty are likely to see no improvement in their situation over seven years. This is a disgrace.

There is no shortage of surveys measuring these things. Yesterday, our front page featured an ASB housing analysis that found a disproportionate number of houses in Auckland are home to two or even three families. This is the downside of average house prices approaching $1 million and rents that will probably continue to rise if investors’ expectations of capital gains are not constrained.

The Children’s Commissioner reports 16 per cent of children in overcrowded houses (defined as at least one bedroom short), including half of all children in Pacific ethnic groups. The figures are always troubling and governments must do what they can. When they provide some suggested solutions, the country needs to know whether it is working. At this rate we will have no report on this year’s Budget decisions until end of 2017. Surely social analysts can do better. Our children deserve nothing less.

An overcrowded house is at least one bedroom short. ?So if two kids share a bedroom, that’s poverty? ? It used to be reality. ?These are all lofty goals to aspire to, but we’re getting to the point where the standard of living to be met needs to include a holiday, fast broadband and a bedroom for every child to prevent a “poverty” label, we’re really just chasing our tails. ?

The word “poverty” and “child poverty” is bandied about without any clear definition as to 1) what the benchmarks are, and 2) if the benchmarks have changed.

In statistics, they have seasonal adjustments, and inflationary adjustments, so we know we are comparing apples with apples.

100% of our children have access to education. ? That used to be good enough 20 years ago. ? Now they also need access to broadband. ? Sure, it’s a nice to have, but we can’t compare today’s poverty with that of when we or our parents are growing up.

We can see the same with the “refugees” where they land on the beach and they pull out their smartphones for a group photo or a selfie.

New Zealand provides health care, education and financial help for anyone that can’t responsibly make ends meet. ?Shoes and clothes are obtainable for free or less than $10 at op shops. ?And food is cheap enough if you buy seasonally and smartly.

But it remains a political stick to beat the government with. ?And it will remain so no matter which government is in charge. ?The definition of poverty is simply a moving target and set at a level where there are way too many ‘nice to have’ non-essentials.


– NZ Herald