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Holly Walker to the Minister for Social Development: child poverty, abuse, and neglect—role of family incomes

Holly Walker MP
Holly Walker MP
holly [dot] walker [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz (Email)
How does the Minister hope to reduce high rates of child abuse and neglect without also addressing the underlying causes of poverty and low incomes?
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11. HOLLY WALKER (Green) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she consider low family incomes to be a major contributor to childhood vulnerability?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice) on behalf of the Minister for Social Development: The Minister agrees with the Child Poverty Action Group's economist, Dave Grimmond, who wrote in the Children's Commissioner's latest newsletter: "A lack of income may actually be more a marker of potential problems for children rather than the root cause of their problems … it might be that the personal characteristics that make someone unsuccessful in the labour market also make them poor parents." He gives an example: "Someone with a drug addiction problem may be unreliable both as a worker and as a parent." However, the Minister certainly does not agree with the implication that being financially poor makes one a bad parent.

Holly Walker: Did she advise her colleague the Minister of Labour, in recent discussions, to raise the minimum wage by more than 50c an hour in order to meet the needs of vulnerable children whose parents are on low incomes; if not, why not?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I cannot actually give a definitive answer to that, but I can say that I know that the Minister is fully aware that raising the minimum wage too far could, in fact, lead to more poverty for some families, where they would lose jobs.

Holly Walker: When doctors in South Auckland report seeing children suffering from the diseases of poverty and deprivation every day, how does the Minister hope to reduce high rates of child abuse and neglect without also addressing the underlying causes of poverty and low incomes?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I know that the Minister is fully aware that one of the ways in which we can, in fact, reduce some of the issues of child abuse and neglect is to actually bring through this House the Privacy (Information Sharing) Bill. I note that the member asking the question does not support the bill, and I am surprised, given her concern for children and child abuse.

Holly Walker: If a large number of submissions on the Green Paper for Vulnerable Children call for the Government to raise incomes as part of the solution, will she include strategies to raise incomes in the eventual white paper?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Of course, one of the best ways to raise people's income is to get them into work, and I know that the Minister is particularly concerned to get more people into work. She also, though, would want to have it noted that one does not have to be rich to be a—

Holly Walker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question related to the submission process for the green paper. It was very straightforward and asked whether submissions covered a certain thing and whether that would be covered in the white paper. I do not believe that the Minister is addressing that question.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, the Minister has not quite finished yet. I ask the Minister to make sure she does cover that part of that question.

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Can I start again? Well, I will finish it. The Minister is very concerned that the implication should not be that only rich people are good parents. In fact, being wealthy is no indicator of being a good parent. And she is also going to look at what the submissions actually say before she comes to a conclusion. This is the way we do things in this Government.

Jacinda Ardern: Of the two out of every five children the Ministry of Social Development has identified as poor and from households where at least one adult was in full-time employment, how many of those adults were on the minimum wage?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: For a specific question like that, it would be best to pop that down as a primary question. I am sure that member could do so in the future.

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