Ending Child Poverty is Not Dopey!


It has been estimated that the cost to our economy for poor child outcomes is around 3% of our GDP which equates to around $6 billion a year. This includes costs in health, welfare, remedial education, crime and justice expenditure and lower productivity. We have one of the lowest expenditures in the OECD on children in their early years and one of the poorest records for child health and safety.

A universal weekly payment of around $120 for all children under six would cost the country around $2 billion a year, the same amount as it has cost us annually to provide tax cuts to the wealthy. It cost $1.7 billion to bail out South Canterbury Finance and the government is spending around $14 billion on roads that we largely don't need.

A $2 billion investment in our children when they are most vulnerable and most deserving of support (the first 6 years are crucial for their long term prospects) will obviously pay dividends over time. Given that most families with young children are struggling, a universal payment will mean the majority of recipients will benefit and it will reduce the costs of managing the payment if it goes to all children.

The Prime Minister's response to a universal payment for children - "Dopey!"

I'd like him to look at just one of the 270,000 children currently living in poverty in the eye and say that again.

(Key's responses to Metiria's reasonable questions and Simon Bridges remark that she had "been smoking too much of the dope again" were just deplorable.)

Comments

Anonymous said…
I watched it on Parliament tv last night and what I saw was hate for the Green party (Metiria?) emanating from John Key, when he described Metiria's suggestiona as dopey.
bsprout said…
Now that the Greens are scoring regular hits with their questions there is not a lot of love coming from the National Party. I think their dismissive approach in dealing with us is all they have left, they certainly can't win with logical arguments.
Anonymous said…
Why do you set aside a principled response to what the Prime Minister actually says?

You say "Ending Child Poverty is Not Dopey!"

The Prime Minister did not say it was. What he did say that a "universal payment for children" was dopey.
Wouldn't you normally be against the taxpayer stumping up for the children of "rich pricks'?
Isn't the top estimate for child poverty 25%?

Your myopic hatred of John Key and National appears to distort your comprehension and judgement skills. It does not encourage support for your campaign to be part of a coalition of the left.
robertguyton said…
The author of this blog exhibits no 'hatred for John Key', though clearly you would like to assign that behaviour to him, Anonymous.
Why is that?
nznative said…
John Key used the term "dopey" as a specific insult at the greens and Simon Bridges reinforced the stereo-type smear with his 'smoking to much' comment.

The Nats always pull out negative stereo-types to dismiss and denigrate people.

Which makes me ask the question. Is john keys a greedy jew who's only looking out for himself and the rich?.

And yes, that might be a low comment but I've just lowered myself down to national party standards ....
bsprout said…
Anonymous, the universal child payment would be one of the most effective ways of ending the terrible deprivation that 270,000 children currently suffer from (according to a reputable advisory group). John Key refuses to use the administratively simple universal payment because he says some of the money will end up being paid to wealthy families. It is funny that he had no such reservations when he gave thousands of dollars as tax cuts to already wealthy families.

What Key's government is currently doing has actually worsened child poverty and he clearly suggested that there wasn't much more he is prepared to do. The only conclusion I can make is that if he thinks that the only logical option is dopey then he isn't really interested in solving the problem.

He even tells lies about the statistics, the median family income has not gone up, the average has. This means most families have dropped in income and the rich have got considerably richer and therefore lifted the average. http://www.3news.co.nz/Mr-and-Mrs-Middle-New-Zealand-Median-NZ-household-income-falls/tabid/817/articleID/255039/Default.aspx

I am bold enough to call Key a liar because if he doesn't understand the data provided by one of his own ministries he shouldn't be in the job: http://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/monitoring/household-incomes/index.html
Keeping Stock said…
Simply throwing more money at the problem will not make it go away. After all, it's not the children in "poverty" (however you define that) who make the spending decisions in low-income households.

On that basis, Key's comment has merit, and we need to re-think our whole approach to welfare.
bsprout said…
KS, there appears to be a pervasive view that the 270,000 children living in poverty are suffering because their parents made poor choices and by restricting support will encourage them to get jobs and budget better. The fact is that the majority of these parents are in work or part-time employment. New Zealand has one of the highest levels of working mothers in the OECD who have children under a year old (61% of these mothers are working).

The minimum wage is set below a livable level and there has been recent revelations that many workers are being paid below the minimum. We now have over 18% of our workforce either unemployed or under employed and the median annual household income is barely over $60,000. Obviously a huge number of families will be surviving on far less.

Only a very small percentage of families abuse the system and to keep tightening the availability of benefits is just punishing many families who through redundancy and lack of jobs are suffering.

If children don't get a good start in the first five or six years of their life then there is a cost in poor health and educational outcomes that the state often has to bear for the rest of their lives. It makes good economic sense to give children support in their early years so that they can fulfill their real potential and be an economic asset rather than an ongoing cost to the country.

Everything else the Government has done up till now has failed to improve the circumstances of our most vulnerable children and we spend less on them than most OECD countries. Until jobs and wages increase, it is money that is desperately needed.

What do you suggest instead?
Shane Pleasance said…
If a charity opened up in new Zealand that was - 'money for poor kiwi kids', would that not do what you are asking?
bsprout said…
Shane, a lot already exist and charities spend lots of money promoting and chasing up donations and their funding streams are often insecure. I have also found when collecting for charities that those with the least often give the most and visa versa.

It is also difficult for many to approach charities for support. I know it is hard for families who hit difficult times to ask for food parcels, it is humiliating for many.

The direct payment for all children is also recognizing their value and a shared responsibility that all children need and deserve a good start in life. It is also valuing parenting and if a parent doesn't have to work a secondary job to make ends meet they can spend more time with their kids.

I feel really sorry for children who are in after school care until after 5pm every day of the week because their parents need the income. We also have lots of children sent to school ill because the parents can not afford to stay at home to look after them.
Shane Pleasance said…
So what you are saying is that the general public do not care enough about the welfare of children to give freely?

With the scheme you are proposing, to avoid the humiliation of having to ask for a handout, funds are paid automatically to low income families?
bsprout said…
Probably similar to the intent of the Family Benefit that was first introduce in 1945 and was pivotal in lifting many families and children out of poverty.

With 270,000 children or more needing support immediately, what would be a libertarian solution Shane?
Anonymous said…
All these problems you raise could have a simple solution. Charter Schools. Hours 8am to 5pm. Starting with breakfast, healthy snacks throughout the day, regular lessons, followed by Kapa Haka, sport, self-development activities, learning around self-suffiency (gardening etc) rounding out the day. Health checks like the old Dental Clinic service of earlier years. Specifically catering for those most in need ie the 270,000 that are not coping with our first world country health and education now. Endless possibilities, and difficult to see drawbacks to such a proposal. There must be some, but what might they be?
Shane Pleasance said…
Libertarians propose that government is not the answer. We believe that government is largely the problem.

"The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods." [H. L. Mencken]
bsprout said…
Shane, government's aren't perfect, and most especially the current one, but removing government altogether will just remove any control over businesses that operate outside of any moral code and have no regard for the plight of people or the environment in the pursuit of profit.

Deregulation of the building industry saw substandard buildings being built that is costing billions to repair and the rapid growth of the dairy industry without proper regulation or monitoring saw the degradation of our rivers.

You still haven't explained what a libertarian approach to child poverty would be? Is it to do nothing specifically and hope charities will fill the void?
Shane Pleasance said…
What does deregulation have to do with child poverty?

I am confused.
bsprout said…
Shane your quote suggests less government is good and yet there is ample proof that when Government's don't govern and allow industries to self regulate, bad things happen.

There needs to be government action to mitigate the issues around child poverty, relying on charities to do it all just won't work.
Anonymous said…
You are not seeking solutions to child poverty.
You are simply trying to destroy the democratically elected Government of your country.
Do you feel noble about that? Creating disorder and confusion as a way forward?
Is this the best the Greens have to offer?
bsprout said…
Anonymous, it is this government that is creating disorder and confusion by not providing the security and certainty of support when people are at their most vulnerable.

In cutting funding across the public sector it has meant genuine ACC claimants are not supported, housing needs are at a crisis point, special education services are being compromised, children will have untrained teachers and poverty is a reality for half our children at some stage in their lives.

When 47% of voters supported a National led Government they thought they were electing a Prime Minister who would listen and respond to their concerns, this hasn't happened.

Obviously I want a change in government but until the next election I just want National to base its decisions on sound advice and research and this hasn't occurred for much that they have done. The Greens had a memorandum of agreement with National during the last term and were achieving some good things but this term our proposals were rejected. I'm pleased they have had a rethink on the home insulation scheme but I don't think you can say the Greens haven't tried to work positively with the government.
Anonymous said…
bsprout at 2.41

All negative.

Refer again to comment above yours.
Anonymous said…
You are not seeking solutions to child poverty.
You are simply trying to destroy the democratically elected Government of your country.
Do you feel noble about that? Creating disorder and confusion as a way forward?
Is this the best the Greens have to offer?
bsprout said…
Anonymous, the Greens are solution focussed and job creation was a huge part of our last campaign. Our solutions provided the only fully costed package whereas this government has no clear plan other than "let the market find solutions".

We have had a memorandum of agreement with National that has had some real success, especially the home insulation scheme. This scheme created jobs and helped improve living conditions of children.

Kevin Hague has produced a plan to help put ACC on the right track and Judith Collins and he are going to work together on this.

There are so many other examples where we try to work with the government to do the right thing that your comments seem ludicrous.
Shane Pleasance said…
I have suggested to you, several times, that libertarians do not believe it is the job of the state 'to fix child poverty'. Indeed, it cannot.

We believe in the rights of the smallest minority - the individual.

No collective group should have any more rights than the individual.

And yes, we do believe that kiwis can solve their own problems, without resorting to the natural statist fallback position of: 'someone should DO something!'.

However, this is your blog, Dave. My thoughts really are not that important. I am just keen to see what underpins the premises you make here.
bsprout said…
Shane, I know what the libertarian view is but although I have asked where this approach has worked you are never forthcoming. The most resilient economies and the most equitable and stable societies generally include the scandinavian countries where high taxation and large investment in public services exist. The countries that have less government and the greatest individual freedom (economic) tend to have inefficient health and education systems and extremes of poverty and wealth. However I am happy to have you provide examples that prove otherwise.
Shane Pleasance said…
So you are rallying for less freedom in new Zealand?
Anonymous said…
"The most resilient economies and the most equitable and stable societies generally include the scandinavian countries where high taxation and large investment in public services exist.

Campaign on this.
Explain that you wish to establish high taxation and large investment in public services.
Anonymous said…
"Anonymous, the Greens are solution focussed and job creation was a huge part of our last campaign. Our solutions provided the only fully costed package.."
Positive, talking about yourselves.

"..whereas this government has no clear plan other than "let the market find solutions".
Negative, losing audience.

"We have had a memorandum of agreement with National that has had some real success, especially the home insulation scheme. This scheme created jobs and helped improve living conditions of children."
Positive, but talking about past.

"Kevin Hague has produced a plan to help put ACC on the right track and Judith Collins and he are going to work together on this."
Positive. Very good. "..on the right track.." is a little presumptuous, don't you think?

"There are so many other examples where we try to work with the government to do the right thing that your comments seem ludicrous."
Negative attack mode. Poor finish.
bsprout said…
Thanks for the analysis, Anonymous, can I make you my official blog worm? ;-)
bsprout says: "What Key's government is currently doing has actually worsened child poverty and he clearly suggested that there wasn't much more he is prepared to do."

The latest HES finds that using the AHC ‘fixed line’ 60% measure child poverty the rates were

2009 22
2010 22
2011 21

And they are down or the same on every other measure depicted.

Table s.2, pg 13

http://www.msd.govt.nz/documents/about-msd-and-our-work/publications-resources/monitoring/household-income-1982-2007/2012-hir-full-summary.doc

bsprout says:"...there appears to be a pervasive view that the 270,000 children living in poverty are suffering because their parents made poor choices and by restricting support will encourage them to get jobs and budget better. The fact is that the majority of these parents are in work or part-time employment."


The Children's Social Health Monitor says:

"In New Zealand, children who are reliant on benefit recipients are a particularly vulnerable group. During 2009, 75% of all households (including those with and without children) relying on income-tested benefits as their main source of income were living below the poverty line (housing adjusted equivalent disposable income <60% of 2007 median)."

In 2011 there were 234,572 benefit-dependent children. Assuming that non-child households are as poor as dependent-child households (unlikely) the number of beneficiary children living below the poverty line would be 175,929 or 75 percent.

http://www.nzchildren.co.nz/children_reliant.php

That represents a majority of 270,000. There is some overlap between benefit and part-time work but not enough to justify your statement. In fact, those children with parent on a benefit and working part-time are more likely to be above the threshold.

bsprout says: "Only a very small percentage of families abuse the system and to keep tightening the availability of benefits is just punishing many families who through redundancy and lack of jobs are suffering."

Your idea of abuse is probably fraud. My idea of abuse is to add children to an existing benefit at the rate of 18 percent of all children born each year. It is hardly surprising we have a child poverty problem.

http://www.occ.org.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/9866/No_3_-_Causes_and_consequences.pdf

Final point. Even when NZ had the lowest unemployment rate in the OECD (2007 or thereabouts) the number of children on benefits did not fall below 200,000.
Clara G. said…
Followed Lindsay here and just read all ur comms. Did u miss this?

Anonymous said...
All these problems you raise could have a simple solution. Charter Schools. Hours 8am to 5pm. Starting with breakfast, healthy snacks throughout the day, regular lessons, followed by Kapa Haka, sport, self-development activities, learning around self-suffiency (gardening etc) rounding out the day. Health checks like the old Dental Clinic service of earlier years. Specifically catering for those most in need ie the 270,000 that are not coping with our first world country health and education now. Endless possibilities, and difficult to see drawbacks to such a proposal. There must be some, but what might they be?

August 31, 2012 6:56 PM

he/she might have a point, no?


bsprout said…
Clara G- No need to have Charter Schools employing untrained teachers and little curriculum control, we already have this being provided under our current system of self managed schools.

Many schools provide breakfasts and lunches and have school gardens. As a teacher I have made such gardens myself and taught disadvantaged kids how to grow their own food and cook it. Our many Enviro schools do this sort of thing to.

Many schools also offer after school care until 5pm or so, but I still think young children should be at home with a parent after school and have quality time with their families.
Clara G. said…
OK. I guess the only solution is a Green/Labour/Mana/Maori/NZ1 coalition Government then. Roll on 2014.
bsprout said…

Lindsay-The numbers of children in poverty have increased over the last few years according the very reputable Child Poverty Action Group http://www.cpag.org.nz/assets/Publications/LFBDec2011.pdf

Using the same AHC 'fixed line' 60% measure that you used the numbers have increased by 30,000 children since when National took office (from 240,000 to 270,000). It was higher under Labour but Working for Families made a huge difference and numbers had dropped from 310,000. It is concerning that numbers are increasing again.

As for your figures regarding the percentage of families in poverty who have some employment I do not have access to figures that can support that properly and am prepared to concede somewhat on that. However the intent of my statement doesn't change as there are a huge number of families categorized as the "working poor" and there is currently an initiative to get support for a living wage. Over the last four years the median household income has dropped and the median Maori household has dropped by $40 per week and Pacifika households by $65. It is not poor management and negligence that has caused many families to struggle but an increase in living costs and a decrease in income.

You must also consider the recent Roy Morgan analysis of the unemployment level which they claim is actually 9.1% and the underemployed is slightly more. when you overlay the 20% child poverty level with the combined percentage of unemployed and under employed (over 18% of the workforce) you can see how I could have reasonably have thought that a large percentage of poor families would have some employment.

Sadly, Lindsay, you seem to buy the idea that parents have a choice to bring their children in to a life of poverty and dependence on the benefit and you imply that that dependence extends for some time. 90% of recipients of the DPB remain on it it for less than 5 years and it is a sad fact that we have one of the highest levels of working mothers of children under 12 months in the OECD (61%).

Compared to other OECD countries we spend less on children in their early years than most. Isn't it about time we actually focussed on doing the right thing by these children? The Government is prepared to spend $12 billion on motorways that don't produce a good return on their investment yet, despite the fact it costs the country $6 billion address the health, welfare and educational needs of disadvantaged children, there is no more money to invest in them.

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