OPINION: The English novelist E M Forster once wrote: 'We are not concerned with the very poor. They are unthinkable, and only to be approached by the statistician or the poet.' Add to that authors of reports on child poverty.
Tuesday will see the launch of yet another study on the troubling topic, this one penned by the Children's Commission and an assortment of academics.
It follows hot on the heels of the Netherlands Report, released by pressure group Every Child Counts at Parliament on Wednesday.
On the same day - and not by co-incidence - National ministers championed CRAP. Actually, it was Vulnerable Children Results Action Plan.
But the disparaging acronym stuck, mainly because the launch rehashed previously announced targets. It was see-through spin constructed to overshadow the other study, which recommended raising wages and paid parental leave.
Thanks to an endless stream of research, reports and studies, there can't be a person in the land who isn't aware that children are going to school without breakfast or shoes.
A cursory Google search yields seven major reports in the past year alone. And that's not counting the Government's green paper and upcoming white paper on vulnerable children. Nor the Government's Ministerial Committee on Poverty.
Wrapping up a lack of action in taskforces and reports, are National's sins. But Labour can't claim to have fared much better. This past week MPs expended energy attacking Social Development Minister Paula Bennett because she said measuring child poverty is difficult. Meanwhile, the party's hierarchy are crossing their fingers and silently hoping a Green Party bill to extend the Working for Families tax credit to beneficiaries will hit a brick wall.
It was policy at the election, but the party is back-pedalling because it was such a hard-sell to supporters. Leader David Shearer gave a lukewarm promise only to support it to select committee.
It's not the first time Labour has flip-flopped on this, having been a fraught issue since National first introduced the family tax credit. Shearer says the party is examining a range of ways to eradicate child poverty, but is yet to produce any.
If the thousands of words written about the links between poverty, inequality, poor health, housing, disengagement in education and abuse haven't produced the answers now, another one isn't going to fix the plethora of social issues condemning one in four children to misery.
Research already completed indicates Government spending on children and families is actually relatively high, at about 3 per cent of GDP.
It's just most of that money is soaked up trying to solve the problems brought about by a lack of investment in the first few years of a child's life. The root causes have been identified, a multitude of solutions proposed: what's stalling action is politics. Children don't vote and the parents of disadvantaged youngsters do not make up National's support. And within Labour the most pressing struggle is to regain the centre from National, not lift a quarter of kids out of poverty.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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