Hungry children 'isolated examples', says Key
The launch of a programme to sponsor Kiwi kids is being seen by some as a sign that the Government is failing to address the issue of child poverty.
Children's charity Variety says the sponsorship programme is a way to help local children directly. For $35 a month, Kiwis can sponsor individual Kiwi kids to help pay for things like school fees, uniforms and visits to the doctor.
"The beauty of the programme is that it can be really tailored towards the individual child's needs, so a family who may well be struggling to provide winter clothing for their child, or warm bedding, they can make application for those funds," Variety CEO Lorraine Taylor told Firstline this morning.
Last year the Children's Commission released a report which said 25 percent of all children in New Zealand are living in poverty, and Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta claimed 40,000 kids turned up to school without lunch every day.
In contrast, Prime Minister John Key says reports of children going hungry are "isolated examples".
"There are 270,000 children living in poverty in our country, and that number is just so overwhelming," says Ms Taylor. "This, for us, is one way that an individual family, an organisation or an individual donor can make a difference to one child at a time."
Mr Key disputes poverty is so widespread, and claims his Government has put more money into welfare.
"We've extended fruit in schools, we have put more money into things like KidsCan and we've extended a number of different programmes," he told Firstline.
"Obviously we don't want kids to go hungry, and there will be – and there are – isolated examples that are reported of a child being hungry and then the school generally steps in there."
Ms Taylor says there are greater pressures on family finances than there used to be.
"Needs have changed over time, and I think maybe times were simpler back then – there's a greater pull on people's finances now, and I think there is a lot of talk about the cost of housing and so on, in our country, and we see people's budgets, we see how much they bring in each week and what their expenses are, and for many families there's not a lot of money left over."
Money donated to Variety won't be given to kids or their families, instead being spent directly on the services and goods required.
"For instance, for a school uniform we'll go directly to the school and make payment to the school, and similarly with service providers. That's a way of ensuring for us, and for the donor, that the money is going directly to benefit the individual child."
Mr Key defended the Government's efforts on helping the worse-off, saying it spends $8 billion on welfare every year,
"It's a very, very large spend and basically our third-biggest I think behind health and education. We put billions into the accommodation supplements. We've put billions into things like Working for Families and other support payments, so it isn't like the Government's not putting enormous amount of money into the support of those that are least well-off."