Greens talk poverty but target middle NZ vote

The Green Party talk a lot about addressing children in poverty. In a policy announcement today they emphasise this:

The Green Party today announced that its key social platform for this election will be to tackle child poverty and inequality by ensuring every child in New Zealand has enough to thrive.

But the policy they announced today seems to be clearly targeting the middle New Zealand vote in Greens announce 20 hours free ECE for two year olds:

In the first of these announcements, made today, the party has announced a package to support families by extending access to free early childhood education and improve the quality of all ECE.

The key policy points in the Green Party’s plan for supporting families’ access to ECE are:

  1. Extend the 20 Hours free early childhood education subsidy to cover two-year-olds, at an initial cost of $255 million. As the benefits of this successful scheme are opened up to at least another 40,000 children, more kids will get a good start in life and the burdens on their families will be eased.
  2. Provide $32 million a year to restore funding for 100 percent qualified teachers, as part of an ambitious plan to boost the quality of early childhood education and make sure every child gets the right care and support.

The total package will cost $297 million a year immediately rising to $367 million in four years.

“Every child should have enough to thrive. Any less is a failure of our society,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.

“One in four children lives in poverty, and 205,000 Kiwi kids are now living in severe poverty, and going without the basics.

But this doesn’t seem to be directly targeting poverty. Some poor families may benefit, but middle and upper income families will also benefit. Not extending EXCE down a year is hardly a “failure of our society”.

“Extending 20 hours free ECE to two-year-olds will make a real financial difference to thousands of families. We estimate that families with two-year-olds in ECE could be up to $95 a week better off under our policy.

“About two thirds of all two-year-olds are currently enrolled in ECE, but their parents miss out on the ’20 Hours’ subsidy given to three and four year olds. We will make the system fair by extending the same subsidy to the large number of two-year-olds in ECE.

“Despite the relatively low level of current subsidy, around 40,000 two-year-olds are still enrolled in ECE, significantly more than a decade ago. Our policy helps will make a big difference to those families straight away.

It will be popular to some, but a one year of childhood is very narrow.

“This is an investment in families and our kids’ education and in reducing poverty.”

“Good-quality ECE helps children reach their full potential, both in education and in leading healthy and productive lives. It can even make the difference, according to recent research, between being in or out of poverty in later life.

“Investment in ECE is a great education spend today, but it can also reduce poverty and inequality overtime.

They have pushed the poverty line eight times in this media release. Perhaps they have more policies to come that will specifically target more pressing poverty needs, but despite their insistence this one seems to miss the mark.

It’s a good enough policy, if the cost can be justified in an overall budget, but they are trying to oversell the poverty pandering.

$300-400 million a year is a lot to allocate to all two year olds, not just those who are really deprived.

This looks a bit like a vote buying exercise dressed as a pauper.

Key’s early childhood education cost claim disputed

John Key has made claims about the costs of Labour’s early childhood education policy in Key: No big Budget spend-up (NZ Herald):

Mr Key cited Labour’s promise to increase early childhood education from 20 free hours a week for three and four years old to 25 hours a week.

The policy doesn’t take effect until July 2017 but Labour has costed it at $57 million in the first year and about $60 million after that.

Mr Key said the cost was more likely to be $600 million, $700 million or $800 million.

Rob Salmond at Polity has disputed this in Key in self-parody about lying (mk 2):

So Key thinks this policy will cost at least ten times as much as Labour does. That’s a very big claim.

He does some calculations:

  • The policy is for 5 extra hours free, each week of the year. That’s up to 260 extra free hours per child.
  • The Free ECE funding rates range from $4.91/hr to $11.56/hr, including GST, depending on what kind of centre you are using. Let’s assume everyone is in the top category and gets $11.56 an hour. After removing the GST that the government gets back in the end, the per hour cost could be up to $10.
  • So, at absolute maximum, the policy could cost 260 hours X $10/hr = $2,600 per child. (In reality, of course, it won’t come close to this average.)

Here’s the problem: there are only around 120,000 three and four year olds in New Zealand!

That looks about right from this 2013 census chart:

120,000  x $2,600 = $312,000,000

That, at a maximum, is about half of Key’s lowest claim. It’s likely to be much lower.

Key looks to have grossly exaggerated the potential costs.

 

Response to ‘WAR ON THE POOR’

A comment worth repeating from Kiwiblog “Helping kids in need”:

  • RRM  Says:
    September 12th, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    How the hell does it help vulnerable children – if their (vulnerable) parents have their benefits cut?

    DUH?

    All this WAR ON THE POOR…

    Penny Bright – I have to ask – do you have to work at being such a complete fucking moron? Or are you just naturally gifted?

    It helps vulnerable children by compelling their parents to get them to ECE where they learn to become socialised in a class of other kids, which helps get them ready for learning at school.
    It helps them by compelling their parents to take them to get seen by a Doctor or a Plunket Nurse occasionally.

    No-one is going to cut the supply of free taxpayer money to ANY parents, UNLESS the parents choose not to meet a few basic obligations to care for their child, that any sensible parent would be doing anyway.

    This is not “war on the poor”… this is “war on crap parents who suck at what they do and need a kick up the arse.” I wish it well.

    ;-) Regards;

    RRM

    Attendee: “Slutwalk” Wellington 2011
    Vehement supporter of gay marriage rights
    Party Vote 1999: Labour
    Party vote 2002: Labour
    Party Vote 2005: Green
    Party Vote 2008: Green
    Voted: “Yes” in the “should a smack be illegal?” Referendum, 2009