The ‘personal responsibility’ argument no longer applies to poverty – time for real action.


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Bennett Morgan writes: 

Right now, under John Key and his rockstar economy one child every three hours enters poverty through no fault of their own.

They enter poverty through a lack of a safety net for their parents, a lack of quality housing, a lack of income for their household and a frankly obscene cost of living. All this, lands our kids in levels of poverty we aren’t used to seeing in the first world, because Kiwi kids never used to live like this. Kiwi kids have never had it so bad.

The United Nations definition for ‘poverty’ is the same across the world. Little or no money. New Zealand children are contracting the same diseases as children in India and Ethiopia.

‘We have no idea what poverty is like, in New Zealand’ the armchair, Parnell-residing experts will tell you. Is the poverty really different if children here are contracting the same illnesses, dental issues and breathing problems as those being brought up in the third world?

I’m sorry to say, but the ‘personal responsibility’ argument has had its day. It has officially expired. It has not helped us one jot, not one iota. It has not brought a single vulnerable child out of poverty.

In 2014 Georgina Beyer told a packed public meeting in Wellington, of which I was in attendance, that she had seen first hand mothers having to abort their children in fear of bringing the child into a world of problems.

That should never be the case in New Zealand. A mother should never be so terrified for her child that she terminates her pregnancy.

Once, the personal responsibility argument could apply. Because everyone who was everyone had the chance to work. Most started at 16 or younger. All wages were living wages and all wage increases were the same as to ensure equality. State homes powered by state-owned power companies were supplied along with free healthcare and education. Free dental visits, free school meals and child benefits kept our New Zealand families strong.

The number of children living in poverty were few and far between.

This is no longer the case. Soon John Key will say just how many state homes he will sell off about a year after he flogged our power companies.

It is becoming more and more inevitable that our children will live a life of poverty. Our grandchildren could face up to a 1 in 3 chance of living in poverty because of a lack of these safety nets.

The safety nets taken for granted by children living before the 1980s. Safety nets John Key was assured as a child so his mother didn’t go homeless. Safety nets John Key and Paula Bennett are determined to eradicate. A classic example of pulling the ladder up once you’re done using it.

It’s not only pathetic, it’s dumb economics.

Poverty is costing our country billions ever year through increased health costs, and as we cut spending to beat poverty the more children end up in poverty, so we end up spending the exact same amount. It is an endless loop.

So now is the time to beat poverty. Now is the time to end poverty. We literally cannot afford to wait. In no time at all these kids will be paying your pensions.

But poverty doesn’t just end with kids.

Nearly just as many of our elderly are facing poverty today too. Is the high rate of elderly New Zealanders living in poverty a direct result of lazy parenting and a lack of skills like child poverty supposedly is?

No, that sounds ridiculous.

The argument that ‘lazy parenting’ is the result of child poverty is also just as absurd.

Providing food in schools is not taking away responsibility from the parents; it’s giving them a break. A break because all their money is funneling into school fees, power bills, supermarket visits + increased GST and rent – rent which will sky-rocket if these families are forced out of their state homes.

Even if you did use the argument of ‘lazy parents’ (if you choose to be that uninformed) in what situation should the child be denied help, and a hand up? None of us choose our parents, and it downright cruel to allow children to continue to live in poverty just because we don’t agree with the choices their parents have made. Parental laziness in fact distracts us from the issue we need to fix.

Honestly, New Zealand, how much more can we take? Stop passively accepting 1 in 4 CHILDREN are growing up in conditions, contracting illnesses we never thought possible to see in New Zealand and costing the taxpayer millions to cure. Stop accepting our elders are living in cold, damp homes unable to pay the power bills. Stop pretending it is EVER OK for someone to be forced into poverty because of their mental or physical condition.

We need to sort this out together, before it’s too late for all of us. 

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One thought on “The ‘personal responsibility’ argument no longer applies to poverty – time for real action.

  1. Well said, though you’re wrong about free school meals. NZ has never had them. Once upon a time primary-school children got half a pint of milk a day, but no actual meals.

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