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The message from an official report into child poverty is blunt - the Government must act or we will continue to pay dearly for the consequences, Labour’s Social Development and Children's spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.
“The Expert Advisory Group on Solutions To Child Poverty has sent a very clear message. Their recommendations are based on evidence that can no longer be ignored by any political party - not least the Government which has it within its power to make some desperately needed changes.
“The report is adamant that short and long term plans are necessary to stem the $6 to $8 billion cost of child poverty every year. It leaves no room for excuses - we must invest to save. It's a simple matter of priorities.
“The group is right to point out that difficult choices will have to be made. Labour is prepared to meet that challenge and has already adopted some of the recommendations as party policy, including a warrant of fitness for rental housing, food in low decile schools and the introduction of a bill in my name focused on measuring, setting targets and reporting on efforts to reduce child poverty.
“Despite the Government suggesting otherwise this is not just an issue that can be solved by moving people off benefits. Two in five of the 270,000 children living in deprived circumstances are from families in work. Their parents are the working poor, struggling to get by on low wages and often in insecure jobs.
“Child poverty will not be addressed until this Government is willing to talk about incomes.
“National has done nothing to lift wages, decrease unemployment, or stem growing inequality, which is at a record high. Its response to persistent child poverty so far has been to relegate it to the too-hard basket.
“John Key has dismissed ideas to solve the issue as ‘dopey’ while Paula Bennett has dismissed previous calls to measure child poverty or set targets, as recommended in the report.
“They have spent the last four years talking about the problem, rather than tackling it head on. There are no excuses for that to continue.