Fighting Childhood Poverty in New Zealand

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — In the past forty years, rates of childhood poverty in New Zealand have soared. The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) found that 14 percent of children in New Zealand lived in poverty after housing costs in 1982. By 2016, that number had risen to 28 percent. Thankfully, there are a variety of both advocacy and direct relief organizations determined to lower this number and the prevalence of childhood poverty in New Zealand.

Variety – the Children’s Charity

One organization working towards mitigating the effects of childhood poverty in New Zealand is Variety – the Children’s Charity. The organization provides essentials to disadvantaged children such as school uniforms, bedding and stationery. It provides opportunities for extracurricular activities likes sports and music. The organization has also funded more than 116 Have-a-Go scholarships since 2017. In 2019 alone, Variety provided $3,564,849 NZD worth of assistance to children.

Speaking to the importance of Variety’s work Lorraine Taylor said, “Living in deprivation can lead to children feeling stigmatized and left out. This has a profound impact on their health, education and self-esteem. In the long-term, it can mean lower academic performance, reduced unemployment prospects, lower earnings and poorer health.” The organization has found that their programs are significantly improving children’s lives. A child who receives funding from Variety reports feeling more confident and happier at school and more included among their peer groups. Furthermore, by removing some of the financial barriers for parents, families are able to spend more time together.

The Child Poverty Action Group

Another organization fighting childhood poverty in New Zealand is the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG). It is primarily a research and advocacy organization that lobbies the New Zealand government to pass legislation that targets childhood poverty. Through its research, CPAG has pinpointed a variety of measures that the Government should take to lower poverty rates in New Zealand. These include raising welfare benefits and the minimum wage, fixing the tax credit policy that currently discriminates against parents who do not work enough hours and creating a benefits system with no couple penalty.

Although the New Zealand government has begun to embrace such policies, CPAG’s spokeswoman Jeni Cartwright continues to stress the urgency of such changes, saying, “These recommendations [must be]taken up more urgently to create real meaningful change and to see a real commitment to improving wellbeing across the nation.” Beyond policy and research, the organization also embarks on a variety of advocacy campaigns. An example of such a campaign was the Welfare fit for Families video series that launched in 2018 which hopes to amplify the voices of New Zealand who rely on welfare to make ends meet.

 Kidscan Organization

A final organization fighting childhood poverty in New Zealand is Kidscan. Similar to Variety, Kidscan provides essentials to Kiwi children. Since 2005, the organization has distributed more than 27 million food items, 170,000 shoes and socks, 345,000 raincoats and 704,000 health and hygiene items across 740 schools in New Zealand. Kidscan has partner schools in low-income areas where donations feed around 20 percent of the student body. Kidscan is doing critical work to protect New Zealand children.

In 2019, the New Zealand government announced a 10-year goal to cut childhood poverty in New Zealand by more than half. Its Families Package will provide low-income families with an additional $75 per week. With the proficient work of organizations such as these, perhaps there is a reason for cautious optimism in addressing the issue of childhood poverty in New Zealand.

Chace Pulley
Photo: Flickr

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