Chris Hipkins, after he became prime minister, committed to defeating the cost-of- living crisis. He proceeded to make a bonfire of policies that were at the heart of Jacinda Ardern’s administration.
But, as Richard Prebble pointed out this week, “the government has not just U-turned, it has repudiated the policies it claimed were essential”.
The number one priority for her government, Ardern proclaimed, was to eliminate child poverty. She identified so closely with the issue that she took responsibility herself for the task.
So what progress was made?
StatsNZ data released this week shows no real change in all areas used to measure child poverty rates in New Zealand.
This prompted a loud wail from the Child Poverty Action Group, which says it is the leading voice on the issue.
Its press release said: “Latest figures measuring child poverty rates in Aotearoa New Zealand are a sad indictment on the country with no real improvement in policy that could turn things around”.
It went on:
“This is an appalling situation. The future is bleak for these children who are languishing in poverty. The country’s future is also blighted by this because we’re not investing in children,” said Prof Emeritus and CPAG health spokesperson Innes Asher.
“About one in 10 children experience material hardship where their households cannot afford things like regular healthy food, doctors visits or to pay their power bills on time, according to the StatsNZ data.
“The trouble is, of the almost 9,000 households surveyed in this data, there was no inclusion of our most vulnerable families. Families living in motels and other emergency accommodation, as well as cars and other forms of homelessness were not included,” Prof Emeritus Asher said.
“The real picture is likely to be a lot more grim as anecdotal evidence suggests the numbers of families in these dire situations is on the increase.”
“We also know poverty is a driver of preventable hospitalisations, which is another reason to urgently address child poverty, for the sake of our overburdened health system.”
The picture for Māori and Pasifika children is much worse, according to the data. One in five Māori children and one in four Pasifika children experience material hardship, according to StatsNZ.
CPAG convenor and housing spokesperson Alan Johnson said radical changes to tax and welfare were needed. The government needed to show more courage than it had in the past five years if it wanted to turn things around, he said.
So there’s something for Hipkins to chew on.
As one of his critics said: “How could there be any change in the rate of child poverty in New Zealand when there have been no policies implemented that could turn things around?“
CPAG wants the government to adopt the 42 recommendations of the government-appointed Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s February 2019 report. So, far not one of the recommendations had been fully implemented in the four years since the group’s report was published.
That is a serious indictment. No wonder Alan Johnson of CPAG said:
“The government has tinkered with policies here and there but there’s been no game changer that gives those of us advocating for children any real hope that the situation will be turned around. It’s shameful.”
CPAG was also concerned about the rate of children with disabilities – 1 in 5 – who were living in material hardship.
“We know that any household with a disabled family member is more at risk of living in hardship,” said Johnson.
CPAG urged all political parties to put children at the front and centre of election-year promises.
Given the deepening crisis on the cost of living, will Hipkins have any better success on his number one priority than Ardern did?
This week the boss of The Warehouse had a disturbing comment on the economy:
“Peak misery is still to come,” chief executive Nick Grayston said when asked about the cost-of-living pressure on consumer spending.
The retailer cited high inflation and continuing cost of living pressures as the main contributors to its big fall in profit in the six months to January 29.
Net profit for the six months ended January 29 fell to $17.4 million compared with $44.4m in the same six months a year earlier.
Grayston cited research showing 52 per cent of Kiwis were living paycheque to paycheque.
On that prognosis, the prospect of early solutions from Hipkins don‘t seem particularly encouraging.
One thought on “The big question for Labour: Will Hipkins have any more success than Ardern did with the top priority policy issues?”
It’s all very well to highlight the problems and to expect the Government to fix things. Do those who are struggling do enough even to attempt to help themselves? And those who point out the obvious problems are bereft of coming up with verified factual information and almost never offer any realistic ideas for solutions on just how the nation is to make the effort to overcome the problems.
The way to help to improve child poverty is through the assistance of NGO’s with Government co-operation by the way of setting up communal groups. Something similar to the typical NZ holiday park setups. Remember it’s for the kids first and foremost. Three meals a day and available education and space to runaround all in an economic situation. Housing is too expensive.