“It takes a village and not all villages are the same”

Plunket's submission on the Child Poverty Reduction Bill

Plunket CEO Amanda Malu says the Child Poverty Reduction Bill is a significant and welcome step in eliminating the devastating impacts of child poverty.  

Speaking at today’s Select Committee hearing on the Bill, Ms Malu said it did not go far enough in recognising the importance of the wider ‘village’ to a child’s well-being and the vast disparities for some groups of children, particularly Māori tamariki. 

“Plunket sees first-hand the damage done to a child when they grow up in a family and community experiencing poverty. Our nurses meet families every day who struggle to heat their homes, are stressed and unable to cope, and who can’t afford the basics.

“We have nurses going into homes so cold that they can’t undress the baby to do weight checks. We know of families living in homes with black mould, where the baby has been admitted to hospital several times with serious chest infections.

“This matters because it means children don’t get the healthy start in life they need. Their ability to grow into healthy, happy teenagers and adults is seriously at risk. It’s not what we want for our children.

Ms Malu was joined at today’s hearing by Wellington Plunket Nurse Tracy Edwards, who talked about the families she supports on a daily basis.

“The families I see love and take pride in their children, regardless of income, but for those living in poverty there is a huge toll in terms of physical and mental health. The numerous families I see live in overcrowded homes, choosing to sleep in the one room they can afford to heat – leading to stress, depression and increased risk of infectious diseases. Children only have one childhood so this is urgent,” she says.

The nurse talked about one family, where the father had injured his knee and was unable to work following surgery. “He spent his days fishing off the Miramar wharf – not as a hobby but to prevent the family going hungry.

“Catching a fish for dinner and having to catch fish for dinner are very different things.”

Ms Malu says Plunket whole-heartedly supports the Government’s commitment to putting the issue of child poverty at the forefront of legislation. “This Bill is a significant step forward - we’re right behind its intent and the opportunity it presents.

“What is missing from the Bill is the recognition that a child does not exist on its own – the well-being of a child must be considered in the context of its community and family. We would like to see this reflected in the measures and targets, and in the well-being strategy.

“NGOs and other agencies working with children are an integral part of the village. We welcome the opportunity for far more working together so we can see better outcomes for children.

“We also want to see a greater focus on the children and communities who are missing out more than others – an appreciation that not all villages are the same. As well as a specific commitment to tamariki Māori, the Bill should also be more direct about reducing inequities for other groups like Pasifika and refugee and migrant children.

“Our concern is the Bill in its current form might reduce child poverty broadly, but it will do little to close the concerning inequity gaps for these children,” Ms Malu said.

by Plunket 16 May 2018

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