A UNICEF report reflecting poor rates of child wellbeing in New Zealand between 2013 and 2018 underscores the Government’s work to break the cycle of child poverty.
“The report itself acknowledges in many cases data was missing or was several years old, largely painting a picture of the previous Government’s underinvestment in our families,” Prime Minister and Child Poverty Reduction Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
“The report pre-dates our progress in rolling out the $5.5bn Families Package, setting child poverty targets, lifting 18,400 children from poverty, and improving seven out of nine child poverty measures.
“Our plan to make New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child is making a difference but there is more to do, and we accept all of the report’s recommendations: to consult with children, ensure an integrated approach to child wellbeing, and plan for the future.
“That work is all under way, with 6000 young people contributing to our Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy, the historic Child Poverty Reduction Act 2018, and the alignment of our goal to halve child poverty in a decade with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development goals.
“While one youth suicide is too many, the New Zealand statistics used for this report are based on average rates for 15-19 years olds between 2013 and 2015. The June 2020 provisional statistics have shown a drop for this age group, down from 73 to 59, with the overall suicide rate at its lowest rate in three years.
“This underpins the importance of our Suicide Prevention Office and the biggest investment in frontline mental health services ever.
“The Paid Parental Leave comparison does not take into account our eight-week increase this term to 26 weeks from 1 July 2020, nor the increase to over $600 a week.
“Lifting incomes is a big part of improving wellbeing and the Government moved quickly to increase benefits by $25 a week and double the winter energy payment during our coldest and costliest months to help families feeling the effects of Covid-19.
“I welcome the report’s positive assessment of New Zealand in terms of access to a clean environment and levels of social support but in some areas comparisons simply haven’t been possible because of data gaps and in other areas the use of different surveys makes international comparisons impossible.
“One of the things I’m very focused on through the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy is to systematically collect and publish data on a much broader range of child wellbeing indicators, which is why we invested $21 million in Budget 20 to measure persistent poverty.
“What’s important is that as a Government we keep making progress to ensure our children have a warm, dry home, access to healthcare, safe and healthy food, and the chance to have a childhood in which they’re free to learn and play,” Jacinda Ardern said.