Govt failing with poverty – Children's Commissioner
Monday 9 Dec 2013 5:56 p.m.
A new report shows child poverty is getting worse, and the Children's Commissioner says the Government isn't doing enough to improve the situation.
Nellie Hunt and her three children are going to sleep in a tent in Christchurch's Waltham Park tonight.
"All I want is the best for my children, a good home, something that we can afford," says Ms Hunt.
Their landlord sold their house; they can't find another and quake-hit Housing New Zealand has no free stock.
Ms Hunt's children aren't the only ones doing it tough.
Children's Commissioner Russell Wills defines child poverty as those whose parents bring in less than 60 percent of the average household income, and they have nearly doubled in the last 30 years.
One in four children are now living in poverty - that's 265,000 - and 10 percent of children live in severe poverty - that means they often go without vegetables, doctors' visits and warm clothes.
"It's great that some parts of society have become wealthier, but the poorest families, particularly those with the youngest children haven't," says Mr Wills.
In the last five years, hospital admissions of poverty-related disease like bronchitis and skin infections have risen more than 20 percent. Cold and crowded houses are the cause.
"They often sleep in the lounge together, because that's how you stay warm, can only afford to heat one room - and of course things like a virus, chest infection or skin bacteria, just goes straight through the house," says Dr Wills.
He says the Government isn't doing enough to help and a nationwide plan is needed.
"Setting targets, like we do with the road toll and with NCEA, if we had that kind of commitment, that legislation and plan, then we'd see a year-on-year fall."
The Government is defending its work on child poverty, saying it has done extensive work on home insulation and child rheumatic fever, and will be unveiling more plans next year.