Commissioner: Target needed for child poverty

Commissioner: Target needed for child poverty

The Children's Commissioner says the Government must set a target to reduce child poverty.

Dr Russell Wills made the comment before the social services select committee this morning.

Dr Wills says he's pleased with some investments by the Government like increased focus on early childhood education and an extra $25 a week for beneficiaries with children but more needs to be done.

"If you're in severe hardship for the first few years of your life, and then you come out of hardship, you do not undo the harm done from being in poverty and poor housing."

The same sentiments are reflected in the Salvation Army's State of the Nation report which says the country still does not take the damage caused by child poverty seriously enough.

Dr Wills says the key drivers of poor health and education outcomes for children are material deprivation, relative poverty and very poor housing.

He says this government is very focused on setting targets and having plans for things that matter, in health for example, in electives services, in cancer waiting times, in ED waiting times and immunisation targets.

"So what the targets and plans do is they focus the activity of a sector. Chief executives are focused on delivering that thing."

He says a target means CEOs are required to have a plan for it -- this means there's a place for other people to contribute to it.

"For example, early childhood education has a role to contribute to immunisation targets," he says.

Dr Wills told MPs is New Zealand doesn't have a plan for poverty and if we did, then what we would have is CEOs focused on that.

"It's much bigger than getting parents off the benefit and into employment when the minimum wage is $15 an hour."

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says they do measure hardship.

She says the government's trying to grow the economy to get people into work but there is no quick fix

He says it's good to be in work but he's not seeing a change in poverty numbers.