28 August 2014
Amidst the sideshows in danger of enveloping the election campaign, the issue of child poverty stands out as one of the most important matters facing the country and which deserves strong attention.
Most political parties seem to recognise this and have developed their own responses to dealing with it.
UnitedFuture’s position is clear cut. We say every child not only deserves the best start in life, but also deserves the love and attention of both parents, wherever possible, no matter what their circumstances are. The family unit, however structured, is therefore a vital component in the life and development of a child, and every child has a family to provide the nurturing and support they need. But, sadly, children have no choice over whom their parents are, or the circumstances of their upbringing. So an important part of addressing the issue of child poverty has to be about strengthening and empowering parents and families to be the best that they can be.
At one – albeit important – level, it is vital to ensure that families and their children have good access to opportunity: jobs, income support measures like our Income Sharing plan, good social services and access to quality early childhood education. UnitedFuture supports all of those things but recognises that of themselves, no matter how generous the programmes or the support mechanisms, they will not be enough in all cases to ensure every child has the opportunities to be the best they can be.
And that brings us back to the critical role of parenting. Parents are arguably the most important but most overlooked group in our society. They receive precious little training or support for their role (buy a new dishwasher and it comes with more information and back-up services than any new parent receives) and even when parents do ask for help, they are the ones considered to have a “problem” that needs resolving.
Very few parents, if any, wilfully set out to fail as parents or to let their children down, so we need to be investing much more in supporting and encouraging parents as they carry out their role. That is arguably the area of greatest single focus in ensuring that every child grows up in a decent and loving environment and then gets access to all the things they need to live happy and contented lives.
My major concern about some aspects of the child poverty debate is that parents are being left out of the loop. Of course, there are economic issues to be addressed, and I am not arguing against those, but the focus has to be as much on promoting good parenting as it is on supporting children.
United Future is the original family party. We championed family issues long before it was fashionable to do so. And we have achieved much for families over the last decade or so. The best way we can support our children today is to support our families, something we will continue to do with vigour.