Addressing the problem requires engagement from across the community.

Recently an expert advisory group made some recommendations for tackling child poverty. I'm a member of the advisory group and took part in its work because business has a clear interest in this issue - child poverty affects us all.

Some of the advisory group's interim recommendations were quite specific - on things like benefit payments and affordable housing - while others were more general, aimed at improving the wider environment so child poverty becomes less likely.

For example: ensuring there are enough quality early childhood education services available to allow parents to find and keep work, and ensuring workplaces are child-friendly so parents can combine parenting with the income paid work provides.

Responses have overlooked a few key things. First, the discussion is not an invitation to blame those who may be experiencing poverty. It is simply an invitation to seek some solutions for a situation where many thousands of New Zealand children have a deprived and disadvantaged start in life.


Second, addressing child poverty is not a zero sum game, where someone's gain is always someone's loss, so addressing child poverty shouldn't be about finger-pointing at the "rich" either. And third, addressing poverty is not a matter of throwing money at a fixed, unchanging situation - we need a thoughtful range of initiatives to address what is an ever-changing, evolving environment.

Getting the best environment to prevent poverty comes down to doing a range of things, and also doing some things better.

Issues of family breakdown, sole parenthood and fatherlessness need to be part of the mix. The lack of skills that prevents young people from getting well-paid jobs also needs to be part of the mix.

Fixing the gap between school and work - or school and higher education - is vital.

Attacking the issue of child poverty from many directions, by everyone, has a greater chance of succeeding than simply focusing on benefit payments.

The group's provisional recommendations can be found at Ideas and comments on the recommendations can be sent to until early October, and following this consultation there will be a final report in December.

Phil O'Reilly is chief executive of BusinessNZ and a member of the Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty.