Kiwis want more action on child poverty – but not higher taxes

NZ Herald 5 September 2014
Most New Zealanders want more done to fix child poverty – but not if it means higher taxes to pay for it. A poll of 1013 people for the Child Poverty Action Group has found that 51 per cent of New Zealanders believe the current Government is not doing enough to address child poverty. Only 19 per cent believe it is doing enough. But only 36 per cent would be willing to pay higher taxes if that was necessary to reduce child poverty. A slightly higher number, 38 per cent, would not be willing to pay higher taxes if necessary, and 26 per cent were unsure. The poll was conducted by MMResearch from June 10-16 using an online panel designed to be representative of all adults aged 18-plus and has a margin of error of 3.1 per cent.

…The poll found that 80 per cent of people agreed that child poverty is a problem in New Zealand. Only 13 per cent disagreed. They were then asked to write, unprompted, what they believed was the primary cause of child poverty. Answers were split evenly: 40 per cent listed economic factors such as low wages, unemployment and the widening gap between rich and poor; but another 40 per cent blamed the parents, listing factors such as neglect, not prioritising children, not budgeting, and spending too much on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. Other suggestions included welfare, housing and political issues (12 per cent), uneducated parents (9 per cent) and having too many children (8 per cent). There was a clear age divide, with the numbers blaming parents rising from 29 per cent in the youngest age group (18-24) to 50 per cent in the oldest group (55-plus).

…Only 18 per cent of Aucklanders said they personally knew any child living in poverty, compared with 23 per cent in the rest of the northern North Island, 28 per cent in the lower North Island and 30 per cent in the South Island.
… Asked about the effectiveness of 11 suggested actions to reduce child poverty, there was most agreement (92 per cent) with the effectiveness of the Government’s policy of free doctors’ visits for children under 6, increasing to children under 13 from July 2015. The Labour Party also proposes free doctors’ visits for children under 13, while the Greens propose free visits until children turn 18.

Other actions judged to be effective were: KidsCan’s programmes donating shoes and raincoats to children in low-decile schools (88 per cent), volunteers helping in schools and communities (88 per cent), targeting businesses to provide food (83 per cent), improvements to housing such as subsidised insulation (82 per cent) and Fonterra’s free milk in schools programme (79 per cent).

None of these would require more taxpayer funding.

Asked specifically whether four programmes should be available universally or only to a defined target group, 77 per cent supported universal free doctors’ visits for all children under 18 (19 per cent opposed), and 74 per cent supported Fonterra’s programme of universal free milk in schools (also 19 per cent opposed).

But people were split 46 per cent each way on whether improvements to housing such as subsidised insulation should be available universally, as the Greens advocate, or only to a targeted group, as at present.

Only 41 per cent supported Child Poverty Action’s key policy of universal tax credits for all children with young children, with 46 per cent supporting credits only for a targeted low-income group as at present.
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