Changing the way New Zealanders talk about poverty could reduce bullying and help lift children out of it, expert says

New Zealand needs to rethink the way it talks about poverty if it wants to lift the next generation out of it.

That's the message of researcher and author Jess Berentson-Shaw, who will be the keynote speaker today at the 2018 Child Poverty Action Group Summit in Wellington.

"One of the things about child poverty is there are many things that will work to rebalance New Zealanders doing things tough," she told TVNZ1's Breakfast today. "And sometimes the way that we talk about it doesn't really point people to feeling like we can do something about it."

Last year, Ms Berentson-Shaw wrote Pennies from Heaven, a book focusing on strategies for moving children and their whānau out of poverty.

Currently, New Zealanders tend to fall into "othering" when talking about poverty - thinking about it as if it only exists in other communities or other countries. And we think of it as an individual problem rather than a community problem. We need to "change the story", she said, so that we view ourselves as an interconnected village all in it together, rather than blaming individuals for the situation they're in.

"Language is really, really important. Much more than we think sometimes," she said. "One of the things to come out of my research is that children themselves experience a really negative impact when we talk about poverty negatively.

"There's lots of research on children experiencing bullying, or being singled out by other children when they're identified as being in poverty. So that's a really important issue for us to think about - how we talk about it might actually have an effect on children themselves."

Today's summit is bringing together experts from across the nation to provide their perspectives on the welfare system, and "to fulfil an urgent need to influence the welfare reform agenda, which is a key focus for the current Government," organisers said.

Jess Berentson-Shaw is the keynote speaker today at the Child Poverty Action Group Welfare Summit. Source: Breakfast