Family Poverty Panel
Poverty is more widespread in the city than many realise, and members of the new Family Poverty Panel want to boost awareness.
‘‘Poverty is real. It is here!’’
Palmerston North resident Kathleen Stephens, a single mother of three, speaks from firsthand experience.
Life was fine until her husband left, leaving her to bring up three teens on her own and forcing her to rely on welfare. Now that her children have left home, she still finds herself on struggle street.
Rent, food, household expenses and the medication Kathleen needs to treat her health conditions put her in arrears every week. The only practical cost-cutting measure her budgetary adviser could give her was to reduce her power bill. But even if she implements that cut, she will still be in arrears.
Kathleen says she is doing all she can, but can’t shake off the effects or the stigma of poverty, that leave her feeling judged.
‘‘[Other people] don’t wear my shoes. They don’t understand.
‘‘I have to get a certificate from the doctor to prove [to Work and Icome] that I’m sick. I have to go into my savings to pay for that.’’
Kathleen is a member of a newly formed Family Poverty Panel set up under the auspices of
People spiral down, and it is really difficult to get back up.
the Catholic Diocese of Palmerston North’s Justice, Peace and Development Commission.
Its chairman, Lawrence O’Halloran says family poverty is more than just about the quality of people’s housing.
‘‘We want to make people aware of the family poverty that exists in Palmerston North. For many of us, it’s invisible.’’
According to 2014’s Child Poverty Monitor, 24 per cent of children were classed as impoverished.
While there were different things that led to reduced circumstances, low incomes can result in isolation from the community, poor housing, and transience - which can have negative impacts for mental health and for children’s education.
There are people in the city he says who are just one event away from the poverty line.
‘‘An accident; illness; my husband left me with the kids; the car broke down; I lost my job; I got beat up . . . People spiral down, and it is really difficult to get back up. Their lives become about surviving rather than about flourishing.’’
Representatives of National, Labour, Green and NZ First parties, and the public, are invited to the poverty panel discussion this Saturday, September 12, at 10am at the Palmerston North Diocesan Centre in Amesbury St.
Poverty Panel member Kathleen Stephens with Lawrence O’Halloran from the Catholic Diocese. The pair will be making a case on behalf of the city’s poorest citizens on Saturday morning.