3 May 2018

Child poverty targets need to be realistic - advocates

9:07 am on 3 May 2018

Social services are urging the government to be realistic as it seeks to tackle child poverty.

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Photo: 123rf

The Child Poverty Reduction Bill - designed to fulfil one of Labour's election promises to bring thousands of children out of poverty - has been before select committee today.

Submitters said targets needed to be realistic and brought into action sooner - and much more than poverty needed addressing.

Association of Social Workers chief executive Lucy Sandford-Reed said there was support to set targets but the bill needed to provide practical measures.

A 2014 report highlighted how bureaucratic parts of the job got in the way of client engagement, she said.

"The staff were reporting it was more important under pressure to meet the KPI reporting than it was to meet children and their families."

A lack of financial resources was part of the problem, but there were other issues facing families, Ms Sandford-Reed said.

A recent Child Mortality Review Panel report had shown a clear connection between child death and poverty.

New Zealand Medical Association chair Kate Baddock agreed child poverty was a multifaceted issue and should not be treated as a separate phenomenon.

Dr Kate Baddock, chair of general practice council of the NZ Medical Association

Dr Kate Baddock Photo: RNZ / Karen Brown

"It is usually a result of a complex interplay between a host of factors, including education, health, employment and justice," she said.

The Medical Association was also concerned the targets for persistent poverty were only required from 2025.

Families Commission chair Len Cook said there needed to be an independent body to hold government to account.

"Someone has to be able to hold government to account for the information executive government are producing to oversee the work of public servants delivering the policy," he said.

Beneficiaries advocate Teresa Homan, who works with families barely scrapping by on government benefits, said she could not applaud the bill.

"The bill is too little too late for many children ... whose lives have been compromised and are likely now registering in all our negative statistics: prison numbers, poor health, suicide and family violence," she said.

She was ashamed any child in New Zealand lived in poverty, she said.