Parents real source of 'child poverty'

MICHAEL LAWS
Last updated 08:57 23/09/2012

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OPINION: One of the great liberal myths in this country, subscribed to by a myriad of political and lobby groups, is that "child poverty" is rampant.

The very term is a lie. So too the statistics: that 270,000 children are estimated to be living in this mythical poverty. And that's why they go to school each day, inadequately and infrequently fed and clothed.

That's why - argue Labour, Greens and their fellow travellers, we have to feed those kids at school because they are in poverty and their parent/parents cannot feed them.

The truth is that every child who arrives at school without breakfast and/or lunch is actually a victim of neglect and abuse. Their parents are not worthy of the name.

Last week TV3's Campbell Live provided the most graphic proof yet of the scale of neglect. It compared two year 6 classes at two Auckland schools - decile 10 Westmere and decile 1 Edmund Hillary primary - and compared their lunch boxes. The results were startling - and seriously searing current affairs television.

At Westmere, all 24 of the kids had lunch, 23 had breakfast and 22 had fruit in their lunch.

At Edmund Hillary, only 14 of the 27 kids had lunch, 22 had breakfast and zero - yes, nought - had fruit in their lunch. In fact, their lunches primarily consisted of chips, snacks and fizzy drink.

When asked if he was surprised at this outcome, the Hillary headmaster said that he was, but blamed the minimum wage for his pupils' plight.

It was the most magnificent example of Pakeha liberal blame- shifting given that 60 per cent of the school roll is Maori and 39 per cent is Pacific Islander.

No child - and I mean no child - should ever be going to any school in this country without lunch. Only a truly inept individual would allow their child to do so and it is time to blame and shame.

Considering our economic circumstances, New Zealand has a remarkably generous welfare system and a Working for Families package for low-paid parents. Sure, it isn't easy to balance budgets on lesser incomes. But to send your kids to school without breakfast and lunch means the parent is a drop kick. They prioritise their spending to starve their child. It is time for middle New Zealand to resist further encroachment upon its pocket by the feckless and their representative lobbies. The responsibility for hungry kids needs to go back where it belongs: the parents.

It should be an instant notification to Child Youth and Family when a child arrives at school without food. The parent who approves that abuse should not be a parent.

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Examine their circumstances and you will likely find other antisocial instances instantly, all blighting the innocent child.

But no. The liberals would prefer to feed the symptom and ignore the malady. They would prefer not to judge. And thereby condemn literally thousands of Kiwi kids to the same blasted existence as their parent/parents.

I'd start at Edmund Hillary School. And that year 6 class. And with a principal who thinks that he can blame lower wages for hungry kids. When responsibility rests where it must - with those who make the deliberate choice not to care, not to provide and not to be a decent parent.

 

- Sunday Star Times

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