'Hold ministers to account' on child poverty

Last updated 05:00 11/04/2013

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New Zealand needs a strategy to combat child poverty, including holding ministers and ministries accountable if they fail to meet clear targets, the Children's Commissioner says.

A Unicef report published yesterday criticises New Zealand's record in child wellbeing across a variety of measures, including ranking it 21st out of 35 developed countries for levels of child poverty.

Children's Commissioner Russell Wills said the rankings showed that fighting child poverty was not about how wealthy a country was, but about how good its government policies were.

"New Zealand does not have a plan for child poverty. I believe we should."

A White Paper on vulnerable children, and strides to research a vaccine against rheumatic fever, were good things, but there was still no overall commitment to protect the youngest and poorest, he said.

Targets should be set, and measurements taken to ensure they were met.

Since Britain had formed a strategy to reduce child poverty, with ministries and ministers held accountable, its ranking had improved from 21 to 16, he said.

But the problems could not be solved by government alone.

"We should reallocate resources and direct that resource to the most vulnerable and youngest children."

New Zealand ranked above Italy and Canada but below Britain and Australia. It was almost bottom - 32nd of 34 - for young people not in any form of education, training or employment.

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- The Dominion Post

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