Fat chance solving “child poverty” with this law

Jacinda Ardern has walked back her claim she was going to eliminate “child poverty”. Now she is committing to reducing it.

Well, she won’t with the measures announced yesterday:

A new child poverty law will require governments to set 10-year targets to reduce child poverty, adopt a child wellbeing strategy and report on progress each year.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern set out the details of the Child Poverty Reduction Bill today, saying the hope was to secure long-term political consensus on child poverty and ensure children were at the centre of policy-making.

The bill requires a government to set long term 10-year targets as well as shorter term milestones to reach every three years and to report on progress in every Budget. It will also have to assess the impact of that year’s Budget on child poverty.

Under a child wellbeing strategy, a government will also have to set ‘actions’ to improve child poverty and wellbeing for those under 18, in particular at-risk and poor households.

Children must be consulted as part of setting that strategy.

Oh FFS. Consulting children? Did you get enough red lollipops today?

So how are they going to do this?

Well, it turns out Jacinda Ardern has no idea.

The Government has estimated between 150,000 and 290,000 children are living in poverty with about 80,000 in severe hardship.

Ardern said that was not good enough.

“For a country with relative abundance, New Zealand has the opportunity and the moral obligation to ensure children are free from the burden of poverty.”

The bill will set four main measures for child poverty to be assessed by – those in households on less than 50 per cent of the median income both before and after housing costs, those in material hardship such as the inability to afford basic goods, and the level of persistence of poverty.

There are also six supplementary measures aimed at giving data of the different levels of poverty, ranging from those on less than 60 per cent of the median income to those on less than 40 per cent.

Statistics New Zealand will be charged with reporting on all ten of the measures of child poverty.

The measures are useless. They are measuring median incomes. The only possible way for this to succeed is if EVERYONE has the same income. It’s a median, and therefore there will always be people earning less than 60 per cent of the median income. Child poverty is nothing more than a slogan, it can never be eliminated with measures based on medians.

Let’s say you pass a law to raise the minimum wage to $100 per hour. Everyone will be lifted out of poverty, right? Wrong. Using those measures you will now be in poverty even on $100 per hour.

Child poverty was one of the main themes of the election campaign and Ardern took the job of Minister for Child Poverty Reduction herself.

The legislation marks the end of the first 100 days programme Ardern set out when she took over government.

Ardern said the aim was to get a consensus on child poverty between political parties. It provided a framework for defining and reporting on child poverty but left governments free to set actual targets and mechanisms to achieve them.

She expected to release Labour’s actual targets soon, saying it would be in time for the public to make submissions on them.

So, they are introducing a law for which they have no actual targets. Muppets.

Ardern said Labour’s ‘Families Package’ was already in place to lift incomes once it took effect from July.

Treasury was still calculating how many children that would lift out of poverty after admitting its original estimate of 88,000 was incorrect and too high.

That package includes a payment for newborn babies and higher Working for Families and Accommodation Supplement payments.

See my example above? Lifting benefits and middle class welfare won’t do a single thing to reduce child poverty according to the measures they’ve adopted.

Ardern says she hopes legislated child poverty measures will put an end to the ‘political back and forth’ around what it is and allow governments to get on to deal with it.

She is yet to say what Labour’s target will be. She said she had initially intended to include those targets in the bill, but withdrew that after feedback that the best way to get political consensus was to leave future governments to set its own targets.

The real reason is she has no idea what she is doing. This is going to be an albatross around her neck, though she probably won’t care as she will be long gone before the Labour party realise the millstone they are creating legislatively.

I can’t wait until next year and election year for there to have been no improvement in child poverty, and see what whoever leads Labour then is going to do about it.

All Jacinda Ardern has done is turn a slogan into a law and handed a competent opposition a big stick with which to whack them.




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