Christmas message

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Christmas: A time of year when the  pressure to keep buying intensifies as the time left to do so decreases, says Ian Munro.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

This time each year for the past three years I’ve written about those who haven’t been in a position to open their wallets and the news has not been good.

But this year there is some good news, a glimmer of hope for those experiencing material hardship in this land of plenty. Last year they numbered something like 155,000.

This year, the annual Child Poverty Monitor tells us that that number of children in poverty has dropped in the 12 months to the end of June to 135,000. The right sort of movement, but that’s still 12% of our children; and, of this number, 70,000 are experiencing extreme material hardship.

The household income measure indicates some 290,000 are living in income poverty households with over 20,000 living in severe poverty.

Children’s Commissioner Andrew Beecroft is heartened by the fact that it’s the first time that there’s been a drop and the first time there’s been an indication that the situation is not getting worse. However, there’s still a long way to go. Combining both measures indicates that there remains 80,000 experiencing both material hardship and life in income poverty. To give that figure some meaning, that’s two-thirds of the population of Dunedin.

So, here we are again, with Christmas just over a week away. The season of good cheer and goodwill to all and a good time of the year for parents and grandparents to think again about the plight of this sizeable group of young New Zealanders and their struggling parents - many with no home of their own, high rents, the bare minimum of food for the table, bills waiting to be paid. After all, Christmas is about a baby born in trying times.

The Prime Minster has indicated that eliminating child poverty is a personal goal. So, let’s make our Christmas present to these children and their families our action to keep the pressure on our politicians. Let’s make sure they don’t lose the political will to bring change.

In the meantime, we can donate food and Christmas gifts for less fortunate families. Our youngsters can sort out some possessions in good condition they no longer need, use their pocket money to purchase something new, or choose one of their presents that will be given to a child other than themselves.

While a present or two is great to give our own youngsters, there are also other things we can give them - a relaxed and happy time, some simple festive traditions, and the idea that giving also includes considering and doing things together for others. 


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