Challenge in overcoming child poverty

New Zealand had a great opportunity to make positive changes to eradicate child poverty but there were challenges to overcome, a seminar on poverty and child health was told yesterday.

Dr Tracey McIntosh is the co-chairwoman of the Children's Commission expert advisory group on child poverty.

There was a "naturalised" response to the topic: that it was all about terrible parenting, Dr McIntosh said.

This response needed changing, she said.

"It's an incredible shift that is our greatest challenge."

People who believed poverty was just part of New Zealand's natural environment needed to be reminded it was a man-made situation, she said.

"We made it, we can unmake it."

Dr McIntosh was part of a panel discussion for the seminar on Poverty and Child Health held in Dunedin yesterday.

The seminar was run by the Public Health Association Otago-Southland, and the department of preventative and social medicine of the University of Otago.

Also part of the discussion were fellow advisory group member Prof Richie Poulton, senior lecturer in social work Dr Nicola Atwool, Dunedin School of Medicine senior lecturer Dr Liz Craig and Arai Te Uru Whare Hauora executive director Donna Matahaere-Atariki.

All speakers agreed inequality was a major issue that needed to be addressed. Prof Poulton called for children under 5 to get a similar amount of funding support as teenagers, because almost 30% of children were living in "grinding poverty".

"This talk about bludgers partying up ... but it's the children suffering that should be our focus."

Seminar organiser Dr Richard Egan said the aim was to tie together some of the issues and solutions raised in the many child-poverty related papers that had been released this year, including an issues and options paper from the Children's Commission, opened to public consultation last week.

The comments made in the session would be forwarded to the Children's Commissioner through the Public Health Association Otago-Southland's submission on the paper, he said.

The seminar was attended by about 140 people.



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