You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

NZ social policies off track: child lobby

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/02/2017

With families with young children among the homeless in New Zealand, a child poverty lobby has backed the Salvation Army's call to improve national housing policy.

The Salvation Army released its 10th annual State of the Nation report on Wednesday, saying the lack of safe, affordable housing and entrenched child poverty, which has been unchanged for the past five years, remain key issues.

The organisation's social policy director, Colonel Ian Hutson, says Auckland recorded a 12-year high in new housing consents last year.

"But during the same time, across the country, the housing shortage got worse and housing became more unaffordable for people."

Backing the comments, the Child Poverty Action Group says the lack of affordable housing has created unprecedented levels of homelessness.

Families with young children and youths aged between 19 and 24 years were among the homeless and those struggling to find good jobs, it said.

To help alleviate some of the financial burden, CPAG spokeswoman Associate Professor Susan St John says the government should create a new tax exemption credit for low income earners and families.

She said the existing Working for Families tax credit scheme had failed ever since the government made cost-cutting changes to it in 2010.

"The worst-off families are excluded from the full package, which saves government spending about $500 million per year," Prof St John said, urging that savings be redirected back to improving the lives of children and young people.

Opposition parties have used the report to criticise the government's leadership on housing and child poverty.

Labour leader Andrew Little called the report a "damning indictment" on the government's record.

"Economic growth counts for little if our kids are living in mouldy houses and young couples are locked out of the Kiwi dream of home ownership," he said.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said her party has the solutions to end child poverty - increasing incomes, secure housing and school lunches among their policies.

"The progress of our country cannot be measured just by GDP growth; it has to be measured by living standards that enable people to reach their potential and participate in our society," she said.

"At the moment, lots of us aren't."

Prime Minister Bill English says the government is attacking poverty but there's still a lot of work to do.

"I think there has been poverty entrenched in New Zealand for quite some time," he said.

"We are trying to attack it from all sorts of angles and the report shows progress has been made."

Mr English says his government will continue to deal with poverty.

"We're trying to attack the core of welfare dependency, child abuse and families in persistent deprivation."

The Salvation Army report also showed strong policies and leadership have had a positive impact on enrolments in early childhood education, especially among the poorest communities.

It acknowledged government policy was having a positive impact in creating rising employment and growing GDP, while reducing youth offending and teenage pregnancies.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon