28 Aug 2012

PM rules out universal child payment

10:14 pm on 28 August 2012

Prime Minister John Key has ruled out a universal child payment as recommended in a new report on poverty.

An expert advisory group set up by the Children's Commissioner earlier this year on Tuesday released a range of proposals to reduce child poverty by 30 to 40% in the next 10 years.

The report defines poverty by looking at parents' income and the kind of resources children have access to.

It says 270,000 children are living in poverty, with many experiencing significant deprivation - often over long periods of their childhood.

The report says child poverty harms those directly affected, reduces productivity and increases health care costs.

It suggests making rental properties undertake a warrant of fitness to ensure that they are safe and healthy, and proposes that all parents get a weekly payment so they can afford to stay at home with their children longer before returning to work.

In the long term, it says a new income support payment should be established for all children, with additional payments targeted to families that need more.

Prime Minister John Key says there is no question that some people are in real need, but it does not make a lot of sense to have a universal payment for children. Instead, he says the Government has maintained entitlements for programmes, such as Working for Families.

"One of the most authoritative reports I've seen indicates that about 60 percent of those children in poverty come from welfare benefit based households. So I think some of the reforms that we're doing there will hopefully help that situation."

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says whether providing food in schools should be the Government's responsibility is a question that needs further consideration. She says most schools in the poorest areas already have food programmes.

Labour leader David Shearer says his party may adopt some of the recommendations in the report as policy.

"I think the report overall is a very, very good one. It makes a compelling case for taking action to help our kids get ahead. We'll be looking at many of their recommendations and possibly rolling them out as part of our policy in 2014."