Child poverty under spotlight

By Brendan Manning

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One-in-five Whangarei families receiving Government support are living in "a real state of poverty", a local Salvation Army worker says.

Director of community ministries Peter Mullenger said they were definitely seeing an increase in child poverty in the past 12 months.

The higher cost of living had a trickle-down effect and something had to give, he said.

A lot of children didn't realise they were living in poverty because they were born into it, "which is sad".

Some situations were due to parents making bad choices with irresponsible lenders, Mr Mullenger said.

In one of the worst cases, food had to be dropped off to school by the Salvation Army, as the child's parents couldn't afford to feed them at home.

"The sad thing is that it's happening more and more. It's not so much that they're not fed at home, it's just that there's no food to send them to school with - so they don't send them to school."

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of children not in any form of education, training or employment in the developed world, according to a UNICEF report released last week.

The Innocenti Report Card 11 - which looks at the state of children in the world's most advanced economies - found no strong relationship between a country's GDP and overall child wellbeing.

Children's Commissioner Dr Russell Wills said the data was "very credible". While there were areas where New Zealand was doing poorly as a nation, it was doing well in other areas.

"We've got the fourth best achievement for numeracy and literacy in the OECD, which is remarkable given the level of child poverty that we have."

Child immunisation rates had also improved, with 92 per cent of children now fully immunised - up from 78 per cent in 2007.

However, "we also have one of the worst outcomes for the proportion of young people who are not in education, employment or training".

Netherlands was at the top of the overall table for child wellbeing, followed by Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland. Romania was at the bottom.

New Zealand did not feature in the overall rankings due to a lack of data, but placed between 21st and 30th out of 35 countries for the rest of the reports' indicators, Dr Wills said.

A report from the Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty presented to Government last December had included 78 recommendations to tackle child poverty.

- Northern Advocate

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