Since 1994, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) experts have dedicated themselves to providing research into the causes and consequences of child poverty, as well as formulating evidence-based policy recommendations that are promoted widely.
CPAG monitors policy changes, evaluates their effectiveness and is outspoken on these in the media. CPAG is working alongside many other NGOs toward substantially reducing child poverty by campaigning for public support of policy changes and levers that are needed. The team is dedicated to changing the narrative about people in poverty and has seen its mahi produce some positive and important results.
Increased understanding of child poverty
There is an increase in public awareness of child poverty and greater political commitment to tackling this issue.
“In 2019, New Zealand achieved cross-party agreement that child poverty is a major issue that must be addressed so all children can live good lives. It is now something that New Zealanders feel is one of our nation’s top priorities to address,” says Georgie Craw, Executive Officer, Child Poverty Action Group.
Greater access to healthcare
CPAG has advocated for free primary healthcare for all children under 18 years and has seen incremental steps towards this goal, with children under 13 years now receiving free GP visits and prescriptions since 2015.
Strengthened residential tenancy laws
CPAG has advocated extensively for the right of every child to have a warm, safe and secure home. Over the past few years, the government has taken steps to improve residential tenancy laws so that homes can be made safer and healthier, and rent increases are limited to once per year.
Equity in the public education system
CPAG has been outspoken on issues of equity in the public education system.
“We have argued the case for abolishing the hidden costs of a so-called ‘free’ public education. The Government has now scrapped NCEA fees and provided an opt-in funding incentive for Decile 1-7 schools that do not ask for a ‘donation’ from parents,” says Georgie.
CPAG supported campaigns for free lunches in schools so that all children are able to learn effectively, as many living with poverty may not have their nutritional needs met regularly. In 2019, the Labour Government announced a pilot for free school lunches in 30 schools in 2020, increasing to 120 schools in 2021.
Putting children at the centre of policy
CPAG has consistently maintained that children’s needs should be at the heart of all policy. The government’s new Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy implemented in 2019 was welcomed by CPAG as it signalled a step towards this goal.
“It expresses recognition of the fundamental rights of the child. Included in this strategy is the statement: ‘All children and young people deserve to grow up in families and whānau that have the resources they need for everyone to thrive’. This is at the very core of CPAG’s kaupapa,” says Georgie. “Now we really need to see politicians put this strategy into action.”
There is still a long way to go
“While these changes are all steps in the right direction, we still have a long way to go. As well as continuing to improve housing, education and healthcare, we desperately need income adequacy. For families to have agency and autonomy, they must have adequate incomes to be able to afford their housing needs, and to meet all their basic costs,” she says.
Families are facing numerous challenges in this space. From inadequate and often difficult to access benefit payments, to low minimum wage levels, to a lack of value attributed to unpaid work, to childcare subsidies failing to retain their value through inconsistent adjustment, the difficulties are real and confronting.
Housing supply and affordability is still a major issue.
“Families are often still living in overcrowded and inadequate housing, contributing to health problems and greater struggle. Movements on State Housing are simply not happening fast enough to improve the lives of so many children who are affected,” she says.
CPAG plans to continue to advocate for a future where all children can flourish free from poverty.
“We will continue to produce evidence-based research and policy recommendations to create the policy changes needed to eliminate poverty in New Zealand. We are also focusing on how we can meaningfully provide opportunities for people to join us in our movement. We are all part of this community and we all have a part to play.,” says Georgie.