Feedback from 278 children and young people from throughout New Zealand about their experiences of living in low socio-economic communities and their views on solutions to child poverty.
Child poverty is one of the most pressing social issues facing children and their families in New Zealand. This is not just an issue of concern for policy makers and community leaders. Children themselves are acutely aware of the issue, experience the impact of it and have a wealth of ideas on how to improve the lives of children affected by poverty.
This consultation shows that by engaging with, and listening to children we have the opportunity to:
- begin to understand some of the experiences and realities of childhood poverty
- gain insight into the issues and concerns that children in low-income households identify as important
- learn how policies and the provision of services impact on children’s lives
- gain valuable insights into how we can better meet their needs and in doing so improve their lives.
We cannot see the views of the 278 children and young people who participated in this consultation as necessarily being fully representative of how all children and young people experience, and perceive poverty. However, their experiences are very similar to those reported in other studies. The overall message from the children, young people and teen parents involved is that they can and want to be involved in the solutions to child poverty. It is also clear that the experience of poverty is damaging and is felt in all areas of children’s lives from health, economic, material, social, cultural, educational to relational constraints. Of particular significance is the impact poverty has on children’s social relationships, social inclusion, school experience, sense of self and future prospects. Deep emotional costs were evident as many of the children struggled to cope with the personal and more hidden aspects of poverty associated with shame, sadness and the fear of difference and stigma.
The children and young people involved in this consultation have made useful suggestions for improving the lives of children and families living in poverty now, and for eradicating poverty in the longer term. It is time that decision-makers consider and give weight to what they and other children living in poverty have to say. In doing so, they are more likely to create better policies and services to address poverty.