More should be done to reduce poverty, say Sallies

KATE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 13/02/2013

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The Government is not doing enough to reduce child poverty, create jobs or improve housing affordability, the Salvation Army says.

In its state of the nation report released today, it rates the improvements made in housing, social hazards, crime and punishment, employment, and children's lives.

Despite there being some success at reducing the crime rate and increasing overall participation rates in early childhood education, the report found a "making-do, getting-by sentiment in some vital areas of social policy and human need".

Salvation Army spokesman Major Campbell Roberts said the findings showed New Zealand had not learnt from history and did not have the leadership needed to overcome the problems faced.

"This is not to denounce the current or recent set of political and civic leaders. Rather, it is a reflection that we get the leaders we deserve."

With almost 300,000 people jobless and 150,000 others moving to Australia since 2007, alarm bells should be ringing, Roberts said.

Instead the Government remained focused on reducing its deficit and opposed to increasing taxes.

"The reality is that the New Zealand economy has crawled since the beginnings of the global financial crisis in late 2007," he said.

Child poverty, youth unemployment, and housing had suffered and "more tax dollars" were needed to fund solutions.

The report found child poverty rates were static over the last year and violent offences towards children increased by 84 per cent in the five years to July 2012.

It also showed a widening gap between achievement rates of students in low decile schools compared to those in richer areas.

Between 2010 and 2011 the achievement gap between the poorest three deciles and wealthiest three deciles increased to 31.6 per cent, despite a fall in the achievement rate at the top decile schools.

Inequality was also growing between workers with those in well paid work and securing housing getting a pay increase while those in low paying jobs portrayed a "less attractive" picture.

And the housing market was increasingly about the "haves" and "have nots", the Salvation Army said.

"Government's response to these difficulties has been token at best."

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the report made depressing reading. "Findings of escalating violence against children, unaffordable housing and evidence that poorer kids are falling behind at school show families are under enormous stress."

Together the indicators showed the need for urgent changes in Government policy, she said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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