10 Apr 2013

NZ ranked poorly on child welfare

8:14 pm on 10 April 2013

A report by children's rights group UNICEF puts New Zealand among the worst in developed countries for child wellbeing.

The United Nations organisation collected data from Statistics New Zealand, the Ministry of Social Development and OCED reports from the past two years.

New Zealand ranks poorly for child poverty - at 25th out of 34 developed countries - and is behind countries such as Australia and Britain also for homicide rates and child health and safety, the report released on Wednesday shows.

UNICEF New Zealand's national advocacy manager Barbara Lambourn says it is concerning that the needs of vulnerable children and families are not being met.

"Most child homicides happen within the family and that's also really concerning. How we're actually looking after families and making sure that they have the resources they need to do well for every member of the family - particularly the most vulnerable - and that's got to be the children."

Ms Lambourn said the report shows that countries dedicated to putting policies and action plans in place to help children have ranked better than New Zealand.

A suggestion to change Working for Families to incorporate all families under the poverty line has been made by the Child Poverty Action group.

Spokesperson Susan St John said poorer families are discriminated against by the Working for Families package, tax rates and the 15% goods and services tax (GST).

Ms St John said the issue of child poverty has been addressed before, but nothing substantial has been done to change the situation.

Children's Commissioner Russell Wills says there are solutions to solving child poverty in New Zealand.

"We can hold Work and Income accountable for making sure that children who deserve and need those benefits in fact get them.

"We can also reallocate the investment we use now. We know, for example, that the accommodation supplement and Working For Families aren't directed to the youngest and poorest children. That's where the amounts of money make the biggest difference."

Dr Wills said the report shows countries with action plans targeting child poverty are doing much better than New Zealand and it's time to put a plan in place.

However, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said there is not a simple answer to solving the problem of child poverty and suggested that the solution sits not only with the Government, but with communities also.

New Zealand ranks only twice in the top 10 in the UNICEF report - third for clean air and fourth for children's education achievement in reading, maths, science and literacy.

It is the first report from the organisation since 2007.