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.

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE -

‘‘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.

PHOTO: FAITH SUTHER­LAND/ FAIR­FAX NZ

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.

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