Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Preventing Child Poverty: Barriers and Solutions

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Preventing Child Poverty: Barriers and Solutions

Article excerpt

Practising psychologists, counsellors and other human service workers are often faced with providing individual treatment for conditions which either directly or indirectly trace back, at least in part, from child poverty. Therefore, psychologists and other human service workers arguably need to understand more about this underlying condition in order to appreciate their clients' experiences better and help to change the social situations that are barriers to children living fulfilling lives today and reaching their potential in the future.

Although child poverty rates in New Zealand are about average when compared with other developed nations, too many of our children suffer both short-term and longer term social and psychological consequences. Examining changes in the extent of child poverty over time indicates that the level is, at least to some extent, shaped by government policy. This article focuses on what child poverty looks like 'on the ground', and what impacts child poverty is having on our society. Child poverty is shaped by a variety of factors and it affects particular types of households more severely. Child poverty has short term, long term and very long term consequences, some of which will come to the attention of practising psychologists for remediation, while other (often cumulative) effects will lurk undetected. In addition, since active social engagement with this issue seems warranted we analyse the circumstances under which people's attitudes might be mobilised to support appropriate government policy to reduce child poverty and therefore minimise its effects.

Extent of Child Poverty in New Zealand

The overall picture painted by economists and statisticians is clear, although the details blur with the complexities of measurements and individual circumstances. Child poverty is the extent to which children live in poor households and is a specialised aspect of poverty studies more generally. Some New Zealand studies into child poverty have been carried out (and will be referred to below), and a figure for the proportion of children in low income households (i.e. those below the poverty threshold) is included amongst the set of key indicators in the authoritative annual Social Report regularly produced by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD 2009). MS D broadens and contextualises these figures on child poverty through its frequent (annual) income reports (e.g. Perry, 2009) and its less frequent Reports on Living Standards (MSD 2008). The Children's Social Health Monitor, produced by the New Zealand Child and Youth Epidemiology Service, quotes these reports and adds a breadth of health data that fills out the sad picture for poor children. This monitor published its first set of indicators in 2007: see Craig (2007) and http://www. nzchildren.co.nz/introduction.php. For more rapidly appearing, but not specifically child-relevant indicators of the economy and its effects, information is provided by the Council of Christian Services Vulnerability report (http:// www.justiceandcompassion.org.nz/ uploads/publications/vulnerability_ report5.pdf)

Although there is no official poverty line in New Zealand, households in poverty are taken to be those falling below a particular threshold set in relation of the average household equivalised income, with that threshold being validated by the New Zealand Poverty Measurement study (e.g. Waldegrave at. al., 2003). This type of measure has been adopted by MSD in their annual Social Report (MSD 2009). Since housing costs loom large in any family's finances it is better to have a measure of after-housing cost disposable income rather than not controlling for this. However, proxies to this measure are used in various research studies. Other studies (in particular the ELSI scale developed by MSD: e.g. Perry, 2009) have moved into the wider framework of living standards and have supplemented income-based measures with wider measures of economic standards and also behaviours which lead to social exclusion. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.