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Changes to welfare announced by the Minister for Social Development must be carefully assessed for their likely impact on children to ensure no unintended consequences such as an increase in child poverty, said Every Child Counts today.
"Every Child Counts fully supports welfare reform that enables people to improve their circumstances and increase the wellbeing of their children. However, making these changes requires careful policy design. Child impact assessments are essential," said Every Child Counts Steering Group member Rev'd Dr Hone Kaa today.
"Welfare changes that are made without a focus on children are likely to lead to significantly greater hardship and vulnerability for children.
"Those with a long memory will recall that the 1991 budget made significant changes to benefit levels and in the process drove child poverty rates to a record 44 percent in 1994.
"The Welfare Working Group itself has recommended to government that any changes to welfare be subjected to child impact assessments. Such an assessment would allow the government to identify and mitigate any negative impacts on children.
"How the welfare changes will affect children is a critical question because the majority of children below the poverty line in New Zealand, over 200,000 children, are in fact in families on the benefit," said Dr Kaa.
Every Child Counts accepts fully the basic premise of the reforms, namely that the way out of poverty is through paid work. But the corollary is that well-remunerated jobs must be available, along with quality childcare. Second, job seekers must have the necessary skills and health to be in those jobs, or be adequately supported to enable them to get the jobs available.
"We are uncertain that those conditions currently apply and I am therefore very concerned at the impact of those proposals on the children," concluded Dr Kaa.
That is a very good question: How would these refoms affect children and future child poverty? These are questions that will have to be answered.