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Thursday, 23 May 2019 12:47 am

St Pauls in Wellington hosts 1000 at Forum on Child Poverty

PEOPLE POWER: Seated from left, Chris Finlayson, Peter Dunne, David Cunliffe, Jan Logie, Marama Fox, Mataora Paroro, Catholic Archbishop John Dew, Russell Wills and forum MC Lynette Hutson. IMAGE: Lize Immelman

By Lize Immelman

CHILD poverty will be solved if voters believe the commitments given by politicians at a Forum in Wellington last night.

More than a 1000 people attended the Forum On Child Poverty, numbers which organisers Anglican Bishop Justin Duckworth and Catholic Archbishop John Dew believed sent a message.

“We’re hoping to give a clear message to politicians that this is a vote winner. That, actually, child poverty is important to us all,” says Bishop Justin.

Children’s Commissioner, Dr Russell Wills (right) opened the forum, saying poverty related issues are costing New Zealand up to $8 billion a year.

Children living in poverty are much more likely to leave school because of addiction, pregnancy, major mental illness or criminal behaviour, he says.

“Child poverty does not just affect the children of the poor, it affects every single one of us in New Zealand”.

He said the politicians were brave to be at the forum.

The seven politicians, who each had a set time to speak, set out their answers to child poverty.

Chris Finlayson defended the National Party’s performance of the last six years by detailing the government’s successes in addressing child poverty.

His statistics were met with a murmur of disapproval among the crowd.

However, Green MP Jan Logie received applause when she accused the National Party of ignoring statistics that show poverty not being dealt with.

She agreed with David Cunliffe, who earlier called for a proper measurement of poverty and well-being.

Mr Cunliffe talked about various policies around child care and job opportunities “that would help lift children and their families out of poverty”.

The Maori Party‘s Marama Fox and New Zealand First’s Mataora Paroro also talked about policy.

Mr Paroro received applause when he talked about GST-free foods and Ms Fox when talking about the Kickstart Breakfast in schools initiative.

IMAGE: Yc Lee

United Future MP Peter Dunne said talking about policy would not make a difference, but called for a change in attitude about poverty.

“At the end of the day, nothing will change unless the fundamental attitude that underpins all of that, changes,” he says.

Hone Harawire, Mana Party Leader, said the poor are not to blame for their plight and quoted Nelson Mandela.

“The soul of a society is revealed by the way in which it treats its children.”

He was optimistic that New Zealand could change child poverty.

Bishop Duckworth (left) said the politicians “brought their A Game”.

However he wanted to see the parties agree that they would have to make child poverty a national strategy and then to monitor it, if there was to be any real change.

“Until we get it a national strategy, it’s very piecemeal.”

 

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Green Party MP Jan Logie.

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United Future leader Peter Dunne.

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National MP Chris Finlayson.

 

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Labour Party leader David Cunliffe.

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Maori Party candidate Marama Fox.

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NZ First candidate Mataoro Paroro.

 

Ten year old girl challenges MP to help her friend stuck in poverty

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FULL HOUSE: St Paul’s Cathedral packed out for the Forum.

BY Yc Lee and Jonty Dine

A 10-year-old girl walked up to New Zealand First candidate Mataora Paroro and demanded to know what he was going to do about her friend living in poverty.

The Child Poverty Forum at St Paul’s Cathedral last night inspired the girl to challenge the politician.

She recounted how her friend was often hungry at school and could not afford to go to a doctor when he was sick.

“What do you think can be done for people like him and people in a similar situation,” she said.

Mr Paroro said he could talk to her about the party’s policies – and offered her his business card.

The exchange with the 10-year-old typified the passion captured in the cathedral.

More than 1000 people gathered to listen to politicians speak and to voice their concerns over the rate of New Zealand children living in poverty.

Paroro, Labour leader David Cunliffe, and Greens MP Jan Logie were the only politicians who stayed for informal interactions after the formal presentations.

Many of those spoken to by NewsWire reporters were disappointed that there was no question and answer session with the speakers.

Andy Hickman, an Anglican youth pastor from Tawa, says he really felt the empathy come through in the address from the Maori Party representative, Ikiroa-Rawhiti candidate Marama Fox.

“As a youth pastor if I can tell someone feels empathy for youths then it counts so much more.”

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WHANAU: Adi Brewerton (27) and 10-month-old Zita Brewerton from Levin. IMAGE: Yc Lee

Drug and alcohol counselor Adi Brewerton, 27, wants to see more community initiatives to cater for struggling young mothers, providing kids clothing and food.

“Focus on what happens in the broader whanau.”

David Atkinson, 53, family counselor, says often families are not negligent, simply some things are well below their income capability.

Rachel Brookfield, 18, student, says child poverty should be considered the most important issue for our politicians.

“I don’t want to be too cliché and say children are the future, but we need to give this issue the attention it deserves.”

Robert Mills, 80, says the decline in a Christian following means people have lost their moral base.

He says changes in attitude and a more individualist culture have resulted in a society less inclined to help those most vulnerable.

Mary Clare McCarthy, 54, a midwife from Tawa, says the cycle of poverty begins with inadequate housing with cold, damp conditions leading to illness and further financial strain on families.

Anglican Archbishop Justin Duckworth, says parties need to develop a national strategy to reduce and monitor child poverty.

“The current system to measure poverty is the equivalent of a doctor asking on a scale of 1-10 how much pain are you in,” says Archbishop Duckworth.

Around 100 young voters stayed after the main forum to discuss social issues.

Guest speakers who work at the City Mission, Council for Christian Social Services and Rimutaka Prison, were asked what poverty and injustice looks like.

“No access to resources,” said City Missioner Tric Malcolm.

Alison Robinson, Rimutaka Prison chaplain agrees, saying in all her years working there she had only met one person imprisoned who came from a stable, comfortable upbringing.

Mrs Robinson says there is someone who is currently in jail only because there is nowhere for him to stay. Available housing quickly becomes scarce when they find out a person has a criminal record.

Trevor McGlinchey from Christian Social Services wants a focus on helping others, rather than just yourself.

With 40% of all children in poverty coming from working families, he says our country should share its wealth if needed to combat the problem.

Mr McGlinchey says while the median income may well have risen 4% over the last couple of years, the cost of homes, rental and daily living far outstrip any income increase.

“Once you get to the bottom 10%, you see incomes are static or have gotten worse.”

“Those at the bottom of the heap are using less and less money to pay for more and more.”

 

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