Tolley: No overnight fix to child poverty

  • 18/02/2016
Anne Tolley (Photo: Simon Wong)
Anne Tolley (Photo: Simon Wong)

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley is standing by the Government's approach to fighting child poverty after the Children's Commissioner came out swinging yesterday.

Dr Russell Wills told a social services select committee the Government needed to set a target to reduce child poverty. He also said his commission was struggling to do its job with the funding it received.

But Ms Tolley says she is confident Child, Youth and Family (CYF) is doing the best it can and says protecting children from poverty and abuse is a long-term issue that cannot be fixed overnight.

"CYF is do a very difficult job, there's always two sides to a story -- I think those workers are dedicated to protecting children, but they're the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff," Ms Tolley told the Paul Henry programme this morning.

"I think we're all frustrated but somehow we just don't seem to be able to get that message through."

Dr Wills said despite the Government setting targets for other things it considered important, there are no concrete goals in place to reduce child poverty.

His comments echoed a Salvation Army report released yesterday that also criticised the Government for not doing enough.

"Targets are crucial for achieving meaningful social progress," the report said. "As a country, we need targets that are aspirational and courageous if we are to tackle issues like child poverty and the current housing crisis."

"The nation still does not take the damage caused by child poverty and homelessness seriously enough," the report concluded.

But Ms Tolley says the problem needs more than three terms in government to fix.

"This is hard work.

"What we have seen is a levelling off and a slight reduction in the number of substantiated abuse cases that CYF has. We don't really understand why that's happening, we're doing a lot of work in the background to try and get underneath that, but that is the first sign we've seen, because it was growing and we didn't seem to be able to stop it. That doesn't mean we've got all the answers, but some of this is really long-term, inter-generational work that we've got to do and that's not going to be solved overnight, that's not going to be solved in three terms, I can tell you that isn't going to be solved in five or six terms  that is a generation change."

She highlighted the Government's efforts of job creation and incoming lifting as playing a role in reducing child poverty.

"The best way out of poverty and the best long-term outcome result for those kids is to get a job, get in to work we're very focused on that.

"I'm absolutely determined to make a difference for those kids but it's not going to happen overnight, as they say, but it is going to happen."