Child poverty efforts noted

Children's Commissioner Russell Wills discusses in Dunedin yesterday an initiative to counter...
Children's Commissioner Russell Wills discusses in Dunedin yesterday an initiative to counter child poverty. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Some encouraging progress is being made by the country's 20 district health boards in the fight against child poverty, Children's Commissioner Russell Wills says.

The DHBs had been responding positively to a collaborative Compass initiative aimed at strengthening joint learning and shared leadership over this key community issue, he said in Dunedin yesterday.

He was commenting in a talk, titled ''Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty''.

The paper, whose second author was Jonathan Boston, of Victoria University of Wellington, noted New Zealand had ''a relatively high proportion of children living in poverty, particularly for sole parent families''.

''Other countries with similar GDP have lower rates and some countries have reduced their child poverty rates through changes in government policy.''

Child poverty had marked, life-long effects on health, education and social outcomes, the paper noted.

A recent Compass programme fact sheet noted that New Zealand had ''poor child and youth health outcomes, with high levels of preventable ill health and marked health inequalities''.

There was already substantial knowledge about good practice in child and youth health but there was also ''wide variation in practice and outcomes throughout the country''.

Dr Wills, who is an Otago medical graduate, said the recommendations of an expert advisory group on child poverty issues had been made late last year.

The Government had since announced several new policies which were consistent with the recommendations, including the building of 500 state houses.

But no progress had yet been made on recommendations to increase income support for poor families.

Barry Taylor, an Otago University paediatric researcher and a former Paediatric Society president, said the Compass initiative was generally being viewed positively.

But creating more jobs and increasing incomes for poor families were also crucial in the fight against poverty.

The Compass initiative was supported by front line health staff and senior management, but convincing some health board middle management to make constructive changes remained a potential challenge, he said in an interview.



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