Family poverty at Christmas
Issues of family poverty were a key part of discussions at the Synod for the Family in Rome.
The final Relatio document speaks of family poverty as ‘a real nightmare’, in which families often ‘feel abandoned by the disinterest and lack of attention’ given to their experiences. Overwhelming financial difficulties and society’s ‘hesitancy to welcome life’ can discourage young people from marrying and raising families. The Synod Bishops called on the state to structure institutions and laws to better support families.
According to the Child Poverty Monitor 2013 Technical Report of the Commissioner for Children and Otago University (see
www.childpoverty.co.nz), 17 per cent of children in New Zealand regularly miss out on things they need. Examples include: a meal with meat, fish, chicken or vegetarian equivalent at least every second day; a good bed; and two pairs of good shoes. Families living below the poverty line also have to cut back on things like visits to the doctor, keeping warm, or repairing broken appliances.
Prime Minister John Key has called for suggestions on overcoming child poverty. Caritas suggests as well as responding to the immediate needs of families in poverty through donations to charitable organisations, each of us could also take the time this Christmas to write to the Prime Minister, or to email or phone our local MP to support the recommendations made last year by the Expert Advisory Group of Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills.
‘Christmas can be a time of stress and worry for many parents who long to provide the basics – adequate food, shelter and warmth – for their children,’ Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand Director Julianne Hickey says.
‘For others, Christmas is a time of extra food, of carefully chosen gifts, of time off for family celebrations.
‘It is good those who are able to experience Christmas in this way reach out to share that good fortune with others in need,’ she says.
‘And it is equally important to continue to work as a country to ensure our laws, systems and policies guarantee families have what they need to live in dignity and to flourish.’