Ask almost any parent or caregiver what matters most to them, and the response will be their children.
A parent's thoughts are often centred on their child's health, wellbeing, happiness, and education. How hard must it be then for a parent who is struggling to provide even the essentials?
We know that one in five young New Zealanders do not have their basic needs met, and many dread the start of the new school year because they don't have the correct uniform or the tools they need to learn.
For many of us, it is unthinkable, yet this is a national shame, and it is unlikely to change without meaningful and collective effort by every sector of our society.
The impact of Covid-19 has been felt in homes and businesses across the country, but nowhere more so than in low-income households. The pandemic has had a disproportionately negative impact on families with the lowest incomes, according to a 2021 report by the Child Poverty Action Group, which states the heaviest burdens have been borne by Māori and Pacific children, children living with disabilities, and children in sole parent families.
In other words, those who can least afford to shoulder such burdens.
More families are experiencing food insecurity as they are forced to choose between paying bills and buying groceries. More than 98 per cent of the families supported by Variety, the Children's Charity struggle to put food on the table.
This is unlikely to change - the price of food has risen for six consecutive months and Omicron threatens to empty supermarket shelves.
Increasing food prices, housing and transport costs contributed to a record annual inflation rate of 4.9 per cent in 2021.
This results in essential goods and services all costing more. A recent ANZ report noted that the 20 per cent of households with the lowest income have been impacted most by increases in the cost of living.
Foodbanks, charities, and government agencies have seen more parents and caregivers reaching out for help and support for their children. From May to July 2021, Variety saw a 125 per cent increase in the number of applications for our Kiwi Kid Sponsorship programme compared with the same time last year.
Since 1989, Variety has relied on the generosity of New Zealanders to help parents and caregivers provide essential items for their children. With a focus on health, education and wellbeing, sponsorship provides for basic needs, such as clothing, bedding, grocery support, medical and disability aids, and, of course, school costs including uniform, stationery, and digital devices.
Support is tailored, so that parents and caregivers can decide what their child needs and when.
As chief executive of Variety, I truly believe in our vision of an Aotearoa New Zealand where all young people can realise their hopes and dreams. If we work together and harness the expertise and energy of our communities, we can make this happen.
Every child needs the basics to survive but also deserves the opportunities to thrive. If it takes a village to raise a child, it's only by working in partnership with individuals and businesses that Variety can provide support to children across New Zealand.
Partnering with values-led organisations enables us to leverage broader networks and channels; and, ultimately, reach the young people who need us most. In 2021, Variety launched Active Me – Kia Tū with the support of Sport New Zealand to reduce the financial barriers to sport, play and physical activity, while our partnership with AA Insurance is not only providing support for our existing work but funding research to help inform future programme development.
No matter where in New Zealand we live, the communities we belong to, or who we work for, we all know or are aware of others who need our help.
The growing inequity in this country is highlighted as parents and caregivers prepare for the beginning of another school year, stressed by the financial burden it places on already tight budgets.
It is our collective responsibility as a society and a developed nation to ensure our children can thrive.
So then, not only as parents and caregivers but as a nation, we can say we truly care about what matters most – our children.
• Susan Glasgow is chief executive of Variety New Zealand.