New Zealand

Child poverty – urgent help needed from new PM

Child poverty must be at the top of the incoming Government’s agenda, says the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).

It has written an open letter and launched a petition, demanding a meeting with incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon before Christmas.

CPAGs health spokesperson and former paediatrician Professor Ines Asher says they’re calling for the meeting because none of the parties forming the new Government have policies to reduce child poverty.

She says it’s “alarming” that there has been a “surge of babies admitted to hospital” with preventable diseases.

“Most of these babies become so sick because of their inadequate living conditions which enable bugs to thrive …”.

Asher says there’s not enough for the basics; homes are cold and overcrowded, unhealthy and mouldy.

The nutrition is poor and stress levels are high.

Policies can be created to intervene to ensure these families can access the “basics” which she says will reduce hospital admissions.

Food accessibility, affordability and availability should be included in the policy, Asher says.

She adds that we had policies like this in the 1980s but they have all eroded now.

CPAG wants more help for low-income and benefit-dependent families, more state houses, better legislation about housing standards and help particularly with food adequacy.

For children, this means the food must be of a quality that enables them to be healthy – which is “manifestly” not the case at present, she points out strongly..

The extent of the problem

Almost half a million New Zealanders rely on food handouts each week, CPAG notes.

Stats NZ’s most up-to-date Consumer Price Index information shows that, in addition to groceries, food, meat, fish and poultry prices saw an eight per cent increase on the previous year.

It doesn’t matter where you live, North or South, people are lining up for assistance with the basics.

Rotorua Salvation Army foodbank corps officer Hana Seddon says the organisation had always been “an important part of a community response to the needs out there”.

This year, people with jobs and mortgages struggling to feed their families are also turning to the food bank, she says.

Invercargill-based Salvation Army Major Murray Sanson says they also now see “the working poor”.

He says rising rents are putting pressure on families, and extreme weather events in the North Island are creating food insecurity.

A similar story is being reported from the Tauranga Community Foodbank.

Manager Nicki Goodwin says they’re seeing “record demand”. As is the case elsewhere, homeowners, people working full-time and double-income households are looking for food support.

This year, the food bank has helped 22,298 people within 8213 households. This included 11,797 children she says.

Community help

Communities have developed many innovative ways to help support their food banks, from radio appeals to street collections.

Invercargill’s current drive is seasonal and involves “reverse adventers”.

They set out to “flip the script” on advent calendars, by collecting donations rather than receiving advent calendar gifts.

Each reverse adventer fills a box or a bag and adds a non-perishable food or toiletry item daily. After collecting 24 donations, the bag is taken to the Salvation Army’s food bank.



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News category: New Zealand. Child poverty – urgent help needed from new PM

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