Report: Parents should get 'child payment'

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 12:14 28/08/2012

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All parents should receive a 'child payment' for the first five years of a child's life, a new report says.

An expert advisory group on solutions to child poverty today released their report.

In it they call for a standardised measure for poverty and said New Zealand's "unacceptably high" child poverty rate can be reduced.

"Growing up in poverty is often harmful."

The report, commissioned by Children's Commissioner Russell Wills, said all child-related benefit rates, including the in-work tax credit, should be reviewed.

Increasing parents' employment earnings is the most important way of getting kids out of poverty, it said.

"We propose changes to encourage more parents to enter paid employment but in a context where they receive adequate support."

That included early childhood and out-of-school care.

Housing was another major factor faced by children living in poverty.

The group said all rental properties should be subject to a warrant of fitness to ensure they are properly insulated and heated.

The child payment recommended would be universal for the first five years of a child's life and then targeted to those who most needed it.

It would be at its highest rate during infancy - about $125 - $150 a week - and then decrease as a child grew up.

It would replace the Family Tax Credit, Minimum Family Tax Credit, Parental Tax Credit and Childcare Allowance.

Wills said the solutions put forward by the group were bold and clever.

"Many of the proposed solutions are not about spending more money but about doing things differently or with a new focus."

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has welcomed the report but has not said whether she will adopt its recommendations.

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