Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today set wheels in motion to realise her vision for New Zealand to become “the best place in the world to be a child”.
The Child Poverty Reduction Bill, released today, aims to tackle child poverty by setting in law primary and supplementary measures of poverty and material hardship, then requiring the government of the day to set targets to address poverty. The Bill also requires governments to develop a comprehensive child well-being strategy.
“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,” says Adern. “For too long, too many of our children have lived in poverty and hardship. Economic growth alone, while a crucial part of the solution, has not fixed this.”
Education union NZEI Te Riu Roa praised the Bill, describing it as “long overdue”.
“Children who struggle in schools and centres should have access to all the support they need – be that teacher aide hours, counselling or Learning Support. They also need to live in housing that will allow them to thrive and learn, and in a household where their families and whānau are not struggling to pay the bills, feed them or take them to the doctor.”
New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services executive officer Trevor McGlinchey praised the Bill’s target-driven approach.
“We look to the Government to set ambitious targets. Achieving any significant reduction in child poverty will be challenging and will require structural changes to how we support low-income families. The government must provide strong leadership across all of its legislative programme if these targets are to be met.”
However, others were more critical of the focus on targets. Among them, was thinktank New Zealand Initiative executive director Dr Oliver Hartwich.
“We welcome the government’s focus on tracking the number of children in persistent poverty and hardship. However, setting multiple arbitrary targets for reducing child hardship is easier than actually helping people extricate themselves from their predicaments.”
Initiative senior fellow Dr Bryce Wilkinson agreed that the targets might detract from addressing the underlying problems.
“What the community is looking for is effective action to address these major social problems. Taking years to set targets might be useful throat clearing, but the government needs to show that it is merely the prelude to real action.”