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One in five NZ children relying on benefit

Published: 6:14AM Monday December 10, 2012 Source: ONE News

One in five New Zealand children rely on a benefit as their family's main source of income, new research shows.

The findings come from this year's Children's Social Health Monitor which reveals the impact of poverty on children's health and wellbeing. 

The monitor, which is now in its fourth year, shows a reduction in infections but a high number of cot deaths and child abuse cases.

It shows eight children every year are dying as the result of assaults, with doctors concerned by the severity of their injuries.

Key findings:

  • Hospital admissions for poverty related diseases tapering off, but still higher than 2007.
  • Eight children die from assault every year
  • 23 babies die from accidental suffocation when sleeping in parents' bed

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Dr Nikki Turner from Auckland University told TV ONE's Breakfast the report should be a call to action for the Government.

"In general New Zealand values its children less than probably other aspects of our society," she said.

"We need to look at how we distribute our wealth and how we look after our children and what strategies we put in place to support our children through recessions."

Turner said progress had been made with some initiatives, such as making children's homes smokefree, but more needs to be done to protect their health. 

"We particularly know in New Zealand our housing condition is poor, we have a few housing initiatives but New Zealand has a great deal more to do to keep our houses warm and dry.

"Under-nutrition is also a problem in New Zealand where children are being fed but not getting good food. Meat and good healthy vegetables are very hard to afford when household incomes are tight."

She said the large numbers of children becoming ill with diseases linked to poverty is down on previous years, but "admissions in 2011 however, were still 4,180 higher than in 2007," she said.

"Rates for a number of other conditions, such as serious skin infections and acute upper respiratory tract infections are continuing to increase, and with admission rates overall remaining much higher for Maori and Pacific children, than for European children."

Labour's health spokesperson Maryan Street said the report highlights a rise in cases of asthma, skin infections and other acute respiratory conditions.

"While immunisation rates may be improving, this increase in hospital admissions shows that we are still not getting it right for our children," she said.

"When you look at our economic and health indicators by ethnicity, the figures for Pacific and Maori children stand out. While the Government has health targets, it has no plan to improve the health of our most vulnerable."

The results of the monitor are being officially unveiled at a forum at south Auckland's Middlemore Hospital today.