Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Child Poverty: It’s parents, not govt


Lindsay Mitchell makes an important point in response to the new Child Commissioner challenging government to reduce child poverty:

What about challenging individuals?  Why not, for instance, challenge couples to stay together and committed to their children? Or challenge people who are dependent on benefits not to add more babies? Or challenge young people to finish their education, pay off their loans and get jobs before they start families?
What a difference changing poverty-inducing behaviours would make.

It’s not governments who make children poor. It’s parents who make poor children.

She expands on her comments this morning at her blog:

Many children in income poverty experience no hardship. Others, whose income is above the poverty threshold, are experiencing a number of deprivations.
    Many children in  families on benefits have worse outcomes than children in families who work, even when their incomes are similar. The reasons why are nuanced. But poor working families are more likely to have two parents and budget better. Policy needs to deal with those nuances.

In other words, in a world with govt welfare then that govt should “target” whatever welfare it doles out—while recognising that welfare itself has often encouraged the behaviour that has put children in poverty, and often discourages the better behaviour that may have limited that number or help pull them out of the situation. The job she says, is

to find those children most at risk of living unhappy, unsafe, unhealthy, and unfulfilled lives [and target] whatever funding is available to those children.

This she says would be “the correct and humane approach” to any govt welfare you may have.

But let’s please recognise that more can be done by individuals themselves than by government.

What parents do is always a much more important factor in fixing child poverty than what governments do.

NB: Lindsay chewed over the point with Leighton Smith on NewstalkZB earlier this morning. Audio of the discussion is here, starting at about 2:30.


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