Government gets a 'D' for child poverty

The Salvation Army's latest State of the Nation report gives the Government a 'D' for child poverty, housing supply and youth employment. Photo / File photo
The Salvation Army's latest State of the Nation report gives the Government a 'D' for child poverty, housing supply and youth employment. Photo / File photo

The Salvation Army is giving the Government a 'D' for child poverty, housing supply and youth employment in its latest State of the Nation report.

Child poverty has been hovering around 21 percent for the past five years, while youth employment has fallen to its lowest level in more than 10 years, Newstalk ZB reported.

Salvation Army spokesman Major Campbell Roberts said Auckland had built up a housing deficit of more than 16,000 dwellings over the past five years.

"If our children came home with a 'D' from school, most of us would have a vigorous plan of action to turn it around. That same vigour is needed from our political and Government agency leaders."

Roberts said we needed to stop saying, "She'll be Right" and start saying, "It's not alright" when it came to these issues.

Download and read the full Salvation Army State of the Nation report here.

He said poverty amongst children wasn't improving and more than 21,000 children suffered abuse or neglect in the past year.

"And no light is emerging in this picture despite much talk and many proposed solutions."

Roberts said families, especially in Auckland and Christchurch, were living in housing that was unhealthy, unsafe, temporary or unaffordable.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, who is a member of the Ministerial Committee on Poverty, defended the Government's action, saying many of the Salvation Army's indicators had improved in the last year.

"We agree with the Salvation Army about a lot of the diagnosis," Mr English told Radio New Zealand.

"If setting up committees and spending more government money would solve all these problems then they would have been dealt with 50 years ago.

"We're focussing very strongly on a set of results the Government has publicised which is clear political leadership.

"In the end this is about changing the stats on the ground family by family, person by person, and even the Salvation Army has indicated some progress is being made.''

Labour's Social Development spokeswoman and spokeswoman for children, Jacinda Ardern said the Government "seems content to sit back while things steadily get worse for our kids".

"Giving [the Government] a below average 'D' for progress on child poverty, the report makes specific reference to the Ministerial Committee on Poverty's lack of action, yet the Government continues to claim the committee is making a difference," Ardern said.

"That's just rubbish. Both the White Paper on Vulnerable Children and Paula Bennett's welfare reforms have been heavily criticised for either ignoring poverty or for making it worse."

Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said the report made "shocking reading".

"It's shocking, but not really surprising, to see poorer kids slipping behind when their parents may have lost jobs, or been forced to move because the National Government has overseen a shedding of export and manufacturing jobs and huge increases in the cost of housing," Turei said.

"Central to the right of every kiwi kid to have a good life and a fair future is a strong public education system. But instead of investing in public education, the National Government has been undermining it, even building charter schools so business can make a buck by employing untrained people teaching our most disadvantaged kids.

"We believe it is unacceptable for the Government to read reports showing kiwi kids are hurting without acting urgently to change that."

Read more: House supply gap begins to close

- nzherald.co.nz with Newstalk ZB and APNZ

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