Child poverty – it’s ev­ery­one’s prob­lem

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS/OPINION -

You may have no­ticed there is an elec­tion com­ing up. Amidst all of the mudslinging we con­tinue to hear the words ‘‘child poverty’’ be­ing thrown about like a hot potato that very few want to catch.

Most of us are com­fort­able enough not to know what poverty re­ally looks like. Oth­ers are all too fa­mil­iar with its harsh, cold, empty and soul-de­stroy­ing re­al­ity.

There’s no doubt that many fam­i­lies are find­ing it re­ally tough right now. We all recog­nise that our coun­try has to live within its means but there are also hu­man as­pects of our cur­rent so­ci­ety which are plainly wrong.

The work­ing poor – hard work­ing fam­i­lies with full time equiv­a­lent in­comes who can­not make ends meet – is a new re­al­ity. In our coun­try of plenty, in the land of milk and honey, we are see­ing hard work­ing par­ents un­able to af­ford to feed their kids, to buy them shoes, to heat their home.

Un­able to af­ford the ba­sics of life: this is the soul-de­stroy­ing re­al­ity of poverty.

As re­ported by the Child Poverty Ac­tion Group, decades of widen­ing in­come dis­par­ity be­tween rich and poor in New Zealand is hav­ing the big­gest im­pact on the vic­tims who have no blame what­so­ever: chil­dren.

If sec­tors of our so­ci­ety re­main en­trenched in poverty, chil­dren’s phys­i­cal and men­tal health will con­tinue to suf­fer and in­ter­gen­er­a­tional cy­cles of abuse will carry on.

You may think ‘‘ not my prob­lem’’ but there you would be wrong – the so­cial and eco­nomic costs to our coun­try of one in four chil­dren grow­ing up in poverty are huge. It’s ev­ery­one’s prob­lem. Nigel Latta’s thought pro­vok­ing tele­vi­sion se­ries, cur­rently run­ning on TV One, is at least high­light­ing some of th­ese is­sues and keep­ing them in the news. If you have missed any of the pro­grammes, in­clud­ing on our econ­omy, al­co­hol abuse and fam­ily vi­o­lence, check them on de­mand via the TVNZ web­site. They are well worth a watch. Re­duc­ing fi­nan­cial stress, pro­vid­ing ac­ces­si­ble health­care, qual­ity homes, valu­ing parenting and pro­vid­ing parental support, es­pe­cially in the early years, are re­ally im­por­tant is­sues fac­ing our coun­try right now.

Where do the po­lit­i­cal par­ties and our lo­cal MPs and can­di­dates stand on th­ese is­sues? In par­tic­u­lar where do they stand on tak­ing part in cross party talks after the elec­tion to reach long term so­lu­tions to child poverty?

I’ll fin­ish with a quote from the late, great Nel­son Man­dela who said: ‘‘Over­com­ing poverty is not a task of char­ity, it is an act of jus­tice. Like slav­ery and apartheid, poverty is not nat­u­ral. It is man­made and it can be over­come and erad­i­cated by the ac­tions of hu­man be­ings. Some­times it falls on a gen­er­a­tion to be great. YOU can be that great gen­er­a­tion.’’

In other words, so­lu­tions are within ev­ery­one’s sphere of in­flu­ence and the time to start is now.

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