Put children first, lobby group tells politicians
Politicians, parents, teachers and principals discussed how to make Kiwi kids’ future a bright one at Ponsonby Primary on August 6.
The forum was organised by Tick for Kids, a group aimed at improving kids’ lives. In the lead-up to the election, the multi-agency campaign encourages voters to think about youngsters’ access to quality education, healthcare, affordable homes and reducing poverty related diseases.
Minister of Education Hekia Parata received a prickly reception from the crowd. Other panel members included Labour list MP Jacinda Ardern, Green list MP Denise Roche, Internet Party candidate Miriam Pierard and NZ First list MP Tracy Martin.
The crowd grilled candidates over party policy and how it will impact on children.
Former children’s commissioner Ian Hassall, from Epsom, has been involved in initiatives like this one since the idea sprung up. He says this latest and strongest reiteration will hopefully act as a tipping point for action.
‘‘The whole idea of Tick for Kids is not to go through a whole shopping list of solutions because they are already there.’’
It is about focusing on government policy, political will and changing the New Zealand mindset, he says.
‘‘When all of the different things are being discussed – law and order, and the economy, right up there with those topics should be what are we going to do about ensuring all our children do as well as they can.’’
Hassall says 27 per cent of New Zealand children live in poverty, which is 285,000 children or 1 in 4 of our kids.
This is no new issue, he says; the elderly which now make up 3 per cent of those living in poverty, faced a similar situation.
‘‘Immediately after the second world war and some decades after that old people had a pretty poor run and a lot of them were living in squalor.
‘‘If that can be fixed then surely children can be pulled out of poverty as well.’’
Mana Ririki, which advocates for the elimination of Maori child abuse, is one of more than 30 groups backing the campaign.
Executive director Anton Blank says politicians are guided by public opinion.
‘‘If you look at something like marriage equality, we saw a lot of politicians shift their position between civil union and the marriage equality bill and I think that was because there was a really big change in public opinion. We are trying to create the same kind of social change in favour of New Zealand children.’’
Children first: Former children’s commissioner Ian Hassall at the Tick for Kids forum at Ponsonby Primary School.