Child Poverty in New ZealandChild poverty in New Zealand remains a major issue, with over 300,000 children affected. This is an increase of 45,000 from last year and is double the number of impoverished children in 1984.

A recent study conducted by Auckland University found similarly troubling information that 20 percent of the country’s high school students live in poverty. Looking at ethnic groups, one-third of Maori students and nearly half of Pacific students struggle with poverty.

To rectify this situation, New Zealand’s government has announced the foundation of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children. As the name might imply, this organization hopes to give the government concrete responsibility for the welfare of these students.

The study’s definition of poverty was obtained by looking at various indicators in students’ lives, such as concerns about and lack of food, technology and stable living situations. If students reported two or more of the indicators, they were defined as experiencing poverty.

Unsurprisingly, higher rates of poverty correlated with higher rates of depression and smoking. This is due to growing up in families who face the stress of poverty, then having to face those stresses themselves.

The Ministry for Vulnerable Children hopes to combat these issues. Yet despite its positive mission, there has already been some controversy surrounding the ministry’s announcement. Some people believe that the government should be concerned with all children, not just vulnerable children as the ministry’s name implies.

However, the Ministry of Vulnerable Children may still be poised for success. This is because the most recent report on income and poverty in New Zealand shows that there have been no increases in either. In fact, incomes have risen by nearly 12% overall since 2011.

This increase in income is sure to help offset the very high cost of housing that much of New Zealand faces. For some families, 60 to 70% of income is spent on housing and there is little money left to cover other expenses.

Hopefully, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children can take advantage of rising incomes and improve quality of life for all those affected by child poverty in New Zealand.

Nathaniel Siegel
Photo: Flickr

Oranga Tamariki
With more than 300,000 children living in poverty in New Zealand, an increase of 45,000 since 2015, the country’s government has chosen to replace its Child Youth Family system (CYF) with the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki. The new ministry will begin operating by April 2017. It will aim to address the well-being of vulnerable children and help ease their transition into adulthood.

According to the UNICEF country executive director, New Zealanders have developed a lack of empathy for the country’s most vulnerable individuals, and child poverty has become a pattern in the island nation of 4.5 million.

The new ministry was named to reflect the fact that six out of 10 children in state care are Maori, aboriginal New Zealanders. According to children’s commissioner and judge Andrew Becroft, the new ministry’s Maori name represents the most vulnerable 20 percent of New Zealand’s children.

According to Social Development Minister Anne Tolley, “The new ministry, new name and completely new operating model reflects our determination to remain absolutely focused on the individual needs of each child.” Tolley said the new ministry will be responsible for child care and protection, youth justice services and community investments associated with vulnerable children.

Oranga Tamariki has received an initial primary investment of $200 million in New Zealand’s 2016 budget. The ministry has five focal points aimed at prevention, intensive intervention, care support services, transition support and a youth service dedicated to restricting reoffenses and providing trauma counselling for beneficiaries.

On September 13, State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes announced the appointment of Gráinne Moss as establishment chief executive of Oranga Tamariki. Moss is expected to serve a five-year term as chief executive once the ministry is fully established on April 1, 2017.

New Zealand’s treatment and protection of children is scheduled to come under review, with its five-year U.N. scorecard due.

Shanique Wright

Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in New Zealand

New Zealand is among the world’s most developed countries. The average life expectancy of its population is over 80 years of age, and the country’s education system is considered one of the best in the world. Unfortunately, poverty exists and is a challenge. In particular, child poverty in New Zealand is a real issue.

Approximately 305,000 children in New Zealand live in poverty. This means over a quarter of children living within the country are underprivileged. Additionally, 14 percent of these children cannot afford basic food, housing or clothing. According to UNICEF, “the economic cost of child poverty is in the range of NZ $6-8 billion per year.”

The organization states the failure to invest in poverty reduction efforts in the present will lead to major economic issues in the future.

Children that grow up in poverty–which is often in households with single-parents, large families or a disabled relative–are more likely to experience health problems, struggle to access education and become imprisoned in the future. Unfortunately, childhood poverty is cyclical and is not easily escaped from generation to generation.

In New Zealand, certain ethnic groups have higher rates of child poverty than others. Specifically, the Maori and Pacific populations face greater child poverty than the rest of the country.

Eliminating child poverty is not only a humanitarian responsibility but also an opportunity to help the country’s economy. According to UNICEF, eliminating child poverty can help improve New Zealand’s economy in the long run. Lowering child poverty rates would decrease the financial burden of healthcare and crime. Essentially, the entire community can benefit from aid programs.

Consequentially, many are calling upon the government to increase funding and programs available to the poor. There are multiple organizations dedicated to alleviating child poverty in New Zealand, including UNICEF, KidsCan and Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).

KidsCan is an organization working to provide impoverished children with essential food, clothing and healthcare. Organizations such as these are crucial to solving the child poverty crisis within the country.

CPAG is another independent charity raising awareness and funding for child poverty in New Zealand. The organization believes that the government has not implemented any substantial efforts to reduce the problem.

It is crucial to address child poverty specifically as newer generations can break the cycle of poverty when given proper resources.

Saroja Koneru

Photo: UNICEF