KidsCan Child Poverty Policy Requests
Written by KidsCan as part of the Spend My Super series that takes a look at how each political party will address child poverty in New Zealand.
This is KidsCan's request:
What does poverty look like in our youngest children? It’s the child who has gone quiet, not playing with their friends as hunger consumes them. It’s the siblings splitting a block of noodles, all they have to get them through the day. It’s the little girl wrapping up her sandwich crusts after lunch: “Mummy’s going to have them later.”
These are stories we have heard from early childhood centres since Covid-19 hit.
4370 children in 119 early childhood centres are now waiting for KidsCan help. Our programme, the first of its kind in the country, supports under 5s with nutritious lunches, snacks, raincoats, shoes and head lice treatment - and we can’t expand it fast enough.
Getting help to preschoolers is crucial. Neuroscience educator Nathan Wallis says it’s the most important time of our lives. If we don’t feed and nurture them their brains become wired purely for survival. “It’s deeply embedded in our culture that secondary school is what matters,” he says. “But the science of the last 20 years shows us that the exact opposite is true. We can statistically predict a lot of your outcomes as an adult from the age of 3.”
Researchers at Waikato University have found KidsCan’s programme is making a “valuable difference” to children’s wellbeing. They are more engaged, have more energy for playing, there are less coughs and colds. “It is a weight off the shoulders of struggling families,” they found.
We know we’re making a difference, but it’s not enough. The research also noted KidsCan’s programme “cannot address the larger problem of the very low incomes that are leading to poverty and disadvantage.” Those very low incomes mean families are sleeping in garages, working multiple jobs without making ends meet, or going days without power.
If we want to really change the lives of children in hardship we have to be bolder, and support their parents to change their lives.
I want to see benefit levels raised by a further $75 a week. To anyone who thinks that’s not money well spent, think again. When benefits were raised in the UK, most families spent the money on food. And when people aren’t struggling just to feed their children, you give them the time, space and opportunity to plan a better future.
I like to imagine a future where KidsCan doesn’t exist. Where every family can afford to have a roof over their head, enough money to feed their children well, and enjoy their lives without the toxic stress that poverty brings. A future where no child is at kindy thinking about saving her crusts for her hungry mum. Doesn’t every kid deserve that?