Pennies from heaven

Why cash works best to ensure all children thrive

Too many children in New Zealand are failing to thrive. These children are, in the main, living in families who are struggling with rising costs and low incomes. Families who are being pushed to breaking point. Are the strategies being used to counter the problem powerful or just popular? 

In “Pennies from heaven” we look at what really works to ensure all children have the chance to thrive. Is cash simply the most obvious but disregarded solution?

Ultimately, we challenge the idea that the problem lies within poor families. Rather, this is about all families in New Zealand and what happens when we find ourselves poor.

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Over half of New Zealand families experience at least one year of income poverty after the arrival a child.

Rising housing costs, insecure and low paid jobs, means many families with children are being pushed to breaking point.

The stress of living without enough is at the heart of why children from low-income families in New Zealand are less likely to thrive.

“Money without strings” for all families with children is the most powerful tool we have to lift the stress off families and ensure all children get what they need to thrive. Find out why….

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It is not about poor families, it is about all families and what happens when we find ourselves poor.

Find out more about families who find themselves poor.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Families are struggling with rising costs and it is hurting New Zealand’s children

Raising thriving children can be rewarding, but it is also hard work. Thriving children need more than money, but without enough of it they cannot flourish. With rising housing costs, insecure and low paid jobs, many families are being pushed to breaking point.

Rising costs are outside of parents’ control
Parents don’t control house prices, housing quality, childcare costs or wages. Parents do not control government’s policy. These things all effect whether the children of New Zealand thrive.

Read more in chapter 1

Yes, only some Kiwi kids are getting a chance to really thrive

While most New Zealanders believe everyone should get a fair chance to thrive, it is the kids from well off families that are getting most of the opportunities. These children will then do better as adults and go on to have thriving children themselves.

Children from our poorer communities simply do not thrive like children from wealthier families in New Zealand. They face a higher risk of death in infancy and childhood, more ill health, under achievement at school and greater involvement in the justice system as they get older.

Read more in chapter 2

Living on a low-income is more common than we think
Many more families and children are experience living on low-incomes than we think. Over half of New Zealand families experience at least a year of income poverty after having a child. Some experience it for years.

Somewhere between 40-50% of children who experience material deprivation live in two parent Pākehā households where both parents are employed.

Read more in chapter 3

Having money is not everything, but not having enough is.

Policies put in place by various Governments over the years have enabled the better off to do even better, while families on low incomes have not got the support they need to thrive.

Read more in chapter 4

Many of us know what it is like to face a situation where there are very few options – or the options are all bad ones. It is incredibly stressful. For families on very low incomes facing rising costs, insecure work and little support for them in raising their children the effect of this stress becomes toxic.

Poor outcomes for children today become the burden their children and our society have to shoulder tomorrow.

As the stress of being under financial pressure continues, the symptoms of stress can become the very things that prevent families improving their situation. The stress can limits adults’ “mental bandwidth”, including decision making abilities. The stress children are exposed to impacts their brain development and later adult wellbeing. The cycle continues.

Read more in Chapter 5

Support parents with cash
What works to counter this effect is “Money, without strings attached” for all families with children, with additional help for low-income families. It is the most powerful way we can ensure all children get what they need to thrive.

It can halve the gap in outcomes between children from low-income families and their wealthy peers.

We propose a $200 a week payment for all families with a child under 3 years old and a basic income for all families on a low income regardless of the source of their income.

Read more in chapter’s 6

These families like ours spend money wisely

When low-income parents are given cash with no strings attached, overseas experience shows parents spend it on their children ensuring they get a better opportunity to thrive.

Like in our own families, parents in low-income families are not victims or helpless, they know how to support their children best; but they need to feel secure and have the resources to do so.

Read more in chapter 9

For low-income families with young children they are already doing the “work of parenting”. This has significant value to our society.

What doesn’t work for families with young children are policies that increase their stress levels and fail to improve their economic wellbeing, as other costs (like childcare, transport, accommodation) rise as a result (for example forced work programmes).

Read more in chapter 7

Imagine if we properly invested in the lives of all children in New Zealand? The potential they have is limitless.

Investing in the amazing potential of all children will lead to a thriving and prosperous society where all children have a fair chance to fully participate.

We currently have an imbalance between the unconditional support we offer the elderly who no longer support children and the support we offer families who support children during the vital brain and physical development years. We could redress this imbalance.

We also have many tax loopholes that could be closed up (e.g. taxes on wealth) to help us invest in children.

Based on our calculations unconditional cash payments would bring a net return of approx. $1.9billion a year to our economy. Saving on the cost of child poverty and delivering positive outcomes for families and children.

Read more in chapter 11

Pennies from heaven. was last modified: May 2nd, 2017 by Gareth Morgan