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Shelve child poverty measure talk: Becroft

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/02/2017 Karen Sweeney

Regardless of which child poverty measure is used, figures show up to 90,000 children are at the severe end of the poverty scale and that's unacceptable, Children's Commissioner Justice Andrew Becroft says.

He wants the "unproductive debate" around which of four current measures is best used to measure child poverty to be shelved in favour of an action plan to reduce that figure.

Justice Becroft told a select committee review of the Children's Commission on Wednesday that it's not widely known the government is already committed to reducing poverty in all forms by half by 2030 as part of the United Nations' International Sustainable Development Goals.

"People say well why wouldn't we set a target. Well we've got a target for goodness sake," he said, slamming papers on the table to show his frustration.

"The government, the country signed up to it. Collectively we've got to get behind it."

The commission currently uses up to four measures to determine child poverty and responding to questions from Labour leader Andrew Little about which one he favoured, Justice Becroft declared that would be "the pursuit of a holy grail".

"However you cut it, however it's analysed, whatever measure you choose, there can be no disagreement that at the severe and most profound end there are 85-90,000 under 18-year-old children who are living in very significant, severe poverty and material disadvantaged," he said.

"We've signed up to a half reduction in, now 13 years time. Lets as a country put together a plan to beat it."

Mr Little also questioned Justice Becroft on what he said was a need for including child voices in government policy development.

Justice Becroft said it was not the means of hearing young people's thoughts on issues that was the problem, but the will to do it.

"Often there's a thought, well we know what children would say anyway - actually we don't. It surprises me how often children add real quality and richness to the debate," he said.

Ensuring sibling unity emerged as a priority in the redesign of Child, Youth and Family Services as the result of focus groups the department had with children, he said.

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