[content_protector password=”pavlova17″]One in four New Zealand children live in poverty.
That is as many as 28% and nearly 305,000 children. In New Zealand, poverty is defined as not being able to afford basic necessities, including health care, nutritious food, sufficient housing, clothing, bedding and education. This may not look like the poverty we often see in third world countries, but can you imagine living without these things in your life. I certainly couldn’t.
When a child grows up in poverty they miss out on things most New Zealanders take for granted. They often live in cold, damp, over-crowded houses, do not have warm clothing and many days they go hungry. Countless more don’t get to go to the doctor or stay home from school because they don’t have correct uniform or a lunch to take. The impacts also include lower educational achievement, worse health outcomes and social exclusion. This often means that Child Poverty can leave life-time scars, reduced employment prospects, lower earnings, poorer health, and higher rates of criminal offending in adulthood. This can help to explain the cycle of poverty visible around us in Aotearoa.
The reality of poverty of escaping the cycle of poverty is that it is not in any way easy, and in many cases it is not realistic either. When discussing the parents of disadvantaged students at her primary school Jan Tinetti, Principal of Merivale Primary School said, “They want to budget, but they’ve got nothing to budget with. They’ve got absolutely nothing to budget with.” So if not the parents, whose job is it to get children out of poverty?
Is it the job of New Zealand society? In New Zealand there is a dismissal of the issue of Child Poverty and a negative stigmatism surrounding those who claim it is. This leads to a shame factor for those receiving charity or help. An example of this is that Kids Can choose food for donation based on items that can be distributed in a discrete way. These methods emphasise the scorning attitude society has towards Child Poverty. However, while it is undeniably important for society to support and help this issue in any way they can, it is not their job either to solve this issue.
Ultimately, it has to be central response, it has to be the government. Government policy has the single biggest impact on child poverty rates, affecting family income, housing, health and education. They have to address houses; they have to address wages. The ideal living wage has been identified as $19.80 yet we still don’t have this in New Zealand. The government need to be able to subsidise employers to take people living in poverty conditions as well. It sounds impossible, but there are countries where it has happened and its made amazing change. It’s about hitting factors that are restricting the children of Aotearoa. So come on New Zealand, let’s let our government know that we don’t want our classmates and our neighbours to be the victims of Child Poverty in our amazing country!
Critical Thinking Challenges:
1. Whose job do you think it is to eliminate Child Poverty? Do you agree with the opinion of this essay?
2. How can you personally help to reduce the negative stigmatism surrounding child poverty?
3. How can we become a child poverty free nation in ten years’ time?
1. Ask a parent or a grandparent what child poverty was like in their youth and find out if it has got worse or better since then.
2. Write down a plan the New Zealand government could implement to successfully reduce and eliminate Child Poverty?
3. Research an organisation in New Zealand that is helping reduce Child Poverty and see how you can help. If you can’t see a direct action to be taken, send them an email and ask!