Charity expands sponsorship for NZ children in poverty

A scheme allowing people to sponsor children in Third World countries is being replicated for New Zealand children living below the poverty line.

New Zealand charity Variety is planning a nationwide rollout this year of its Kiwi Kid sponsorship initiative which allows donors to sponsor a local child.

Last year, the Children's Commissioner released a report estimating that 270,000 New Zealand children live below the poverty line.

Variety chief executive Lorraine Taylor said $35 a month helps pay for the specific needs of a child.

"It could well be for warm winter clothes for the child, it could be for bedding and it could be for beds. It's really identifying what the individual family and what the individual child requires."

Ms Taylor said says Variety is working closely with low decile schools and other organisations to identify families and children who need extra funds.

The Government on Tuesday praised Variety for the initiative. Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said it helps those that the welfare system can sometimes miss.

"It's everyone's role to be looking after some of those families and those children that are not doing as well.

"We have a really good welfare system; it is there to provide the necessities. But when times get a bit hard, then surely we have a responsibility as a society to look after other people that need it."

But Labour's social development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern said it is shameful that New Zealand needs Third World initiatives and it represents a hole in the Government's welfare policy.

"This demonstrates that there is a massive gap in government policy at the moment. The fact that 270,000 children are living in poverty - and we're now resorting to a dollar a day campaign - it is a massive red flag to the Government that they need to act."

Ms Ardern said there needed to be action on child poverty in New Zealand - but it should be the Government stepping in, not charities.

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