Sunday, October 9, 2016

Lindsay Mitchell: Why a 'child poverty reduction target' is wrong

Anti-child poverty campaigner Max Rashbrooke writes at RNZ:
Anyone planning their summer holiday will already be thinking about the logistics - the plane tickets, the car hire, the hotel bookings, and so on. 
But before they get onto those things, they'll have decided on one key point: where they're actually going for their holiday, and when. 
The same point applies to government policy, and the currently hot topic of tackling child poverty. The first thing is to know where you're going: how much you want to reduce child poverty, and by what date.
He contends that the government has done none of this latter planning.

I thought when I started reading Rashbrooke's opening he was going to allude to the thousands of children whose families can't go on holiday once a year. Not being able to afford an annual holiday is now just one item on a list of family shortfalls indicating material hardship.

So should the government start subsidizing poor-family holidays as part of the demanded percentage reduction in child poverty?

Most people would think that insulating damp state houses might take priority. Or upping immunization rates. Or funding 'home-for-life' parents who take on the most needy, damaged and disadvantaged children there are.

This is the point the Prime Minister is making to those who want a blanket catch-all child poverty reduction target.

Many children in income poverty experience no hardship. Others, whose income is above the poverty threshold, are experiencing a number of deprivations.

Many children in  families on benefits have worse outcomes than children in families who work, even when their incomes are similar. The reasons why are nuanced. But poor working families are more likely to have two parents and budget better. Policy needs to deal with those nuances.

This government, more than any before, has attempted to cross-identify data from a number of agencies that deal with children and their families - MSD, IRD, Corrections, Health and Education - to find those children most at risk of living unhappy, unsafe, unhealthy, and unfulfilled lives.

Targeting whatever funding is available to those children is the correct and humane approach.

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