Wearable cameras attached to young children have given a first-person perspective of what child poverty looks like in Aotearoa.
The footage illustrated a first-person account of the experience of children in poverty which showed access to less healthy foods, education resources, poorer housing and fewer opportunities for structured physical activity to play sport.
The University of Otago-led study collected data from 168 randomly selected children from 16 schools across Wellington.
The children, aged 11 to 13 years old, wore the cameras for four consecutive days, recording an image every seven seconds.
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Senior author professor Louise Signal, who is the head of the department of public health at Otago University, said the extent to the poverty observed was “shameful”.
Signal said the impacts of child poverty were well-known while understanding the lived experiences were less so.
“Adults make decisions about children’s lives and it’s really important that we understand what it’s like from their perspective,” Signal said.
“This shows the build up of those various different elements that cause the children to have poorer health and wellbeing outcomes.”
No mould was observed in better off households but children in poverty were less likely to have their own room.
Child poverty rates, officially measured in a number of ways, have gradually decreased in recent years, Stats NZ said last year.
However, poverty among young children remained consistently higher than most other age groups and were twice that experienced in the 1980s, the study said. Disabled, Māori, and Pacific children also lagged behind.
The study illustrated an environment that “fails to support many children’s right to healthy development and breaches principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi”, it read.
It found Māori and Pacific children were bearing “a disproportionate burden” of child poverty compared to NZ European children.
Pacific children living in poverty were less likely to have fixed heating, while both Māori and Pacific children had less access to fruit, educational materials, cognitive stimulation materials, personal items and physical equipment.
The CEO and co-founder of KidsCan, Julie Chapman, said the study exemplified the “basic things” kids in poverty were missing out on.
Issues around access to nutritious food were being addressed at KidsCan from early childhood where children often lacked nutrition due to financial constraints.
Access to structured activities was also a big aspect of child poverty, Chapman said, and could affect their societal involvement later in life.
“There are so many barriers that they have to overcome every day.”
Chapman said it was important to hear from the children who were “bearing the brunt of the challenges” but how people acted on the research findings was key.
Children’s Commissioner Judge Frances Eivers said most families did not choose to be in a position of deprivation and a more child-focused approach was needed in policy decisions.
“This provides the evidence but it’s up to the Government to provide solutions,” she said. “Unless we do more on this, we’ll have more of our whānau living in poverty.”
Health spokesperson for Child Poverty Action Group, professor Nikki Turner said the footage showed the “accumulation of effects” poverty had on the children’s lives which was hard to imagine without personal experience.
“It’s not one singular issue, [but] so many aspects of their lived experience.”
Regardless of parents’ working status, Turner said children needed more help and the effects of poverty “should not be underrated”.
With Māori and Pacific children being disproportionately affected, Turner said resources needed to be put in “right from the beginning … if we want a fair and equal status”.
One positive finding of the study, Signal said, was children across different socio-economic deprivation groups spent time in their backyards, if they had one.
“When we think about building our cities, we have to be careful not to lose all of our backyards because they’re a great place for kids to play.”