This is a problem which can be fixed by ‘throwing money at it.’
Fix child-related tax credits (Working for Families) so they include the poorest children, are simple, inclusive, and don’t discriminate on the basis of how many hours parents are working.
Tax credits and child benefits should not be used as a carrot only for parents able to find work. It should be about ensuring adequate income and a standard of living that supports children’s wellbeing.
Limiting tax credits and child benefits’ availability for parents who can’t find enough work punishes the most vulnerable children.
Tax-funded income support should be universally available to help parents help their children flourish. Making it conditional discriminates against some children and only makes the problem worse.
This is about priorities
We can afford to invest in children if we choose to. This is about our Government making the youngest and most vulnerable citizens a priority and recognising its role in supporting parents.
The options for raising $1bn would need to be carefully considered but they could include taxing high income earners or introducing housing taxes.
It’s also worth noting that the 2010 tax cuts stripped $1bn out of Government coffers, which could have been targeted towards the children in most need.
Children are the population group most likely to live in poverty in New Zealand, with significant impacts on their physical, mental and social development. Child health data illustrates how damaging poverty is on young children:
24% of Kiwi kids live in relative poverty and 17% go without the things they need (eg protein, milk, fruit and vegetable)
In contrast, New Zealand has a low level of elderly poverty – at about 7%. Older people are protected from poverty through the provision of a simple, inclusive, income payment that doesn’t discriminate against them on the basis of work status and is maintained even in hard times.
We should treat our children as well as we treat our elderly, through policy that doesn’t discriminate and is inclusive.