11 Dec 2012

Poverty eradication plan backs Whanau Ora

5:00 pm on 11 December 2012

A report on practical ways to tackle child poverty says the Government should continue to fund the Whanau Ora programme.

It is one of 80 recommendations made by an expert advisory group advising the office of the Children's Commissioner.

Ministers are being urged to provide sustainable funding for effective initiatives by Whanau Ora, the health and welfare scheme for Maori.

The group says Maori children and their families are likely to benefit from integrated health services and a priority should be given to alleviating Maori child poverty through the social welfare policy.

The report notes that Whanau Ora providers are well placed to co-ordinate initiatives that will reduce child poverty, especially in communities that traditionally face barriers to accessing services.

Many submissions to the advisory group supported the continuation and expansion of Whanau Ora. It was suggested the scheme could be applied across Government departments.

Maori respondents to the report wanted to emphasise that although child poverty is a serious problem for some, it is not something experienced by the majority of tangata whenua.

Housing crucial

The report puts a strong focus on housing, saying the Government must take immediate action to ensure that Maori families are able to live in high-quality housing so their children grow up to be healthy.

To do this, the Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty recommends that:

  • ministers address what the report calls the serious undersupply of social and iwi housing
  • there should be an increase in the number of affordable houses
  • there should be a push to increase Maori home ownership.

The report notes that Maori home ownership rates are much lower than for other sectors of society and have been falling since the 1950s.

There is also a call for an increase in training allowances and Government incentives for employers to boost the number of apprenticeships for young Maori. The advisory group says unemployment among rangatahi has doubled in four years to 30%, and in small towns and rural areas the rate will be higher.