Clothing and wellbeing of children and young people

Clothing and Care Qualitative research on clothing…
29 Mar 2021
Clothing and wellbeing of children and young peopl…
29 Mar 2021


Research report:

Oranga Tamariki caregivers who care for children in state care receive the Foster Care Allowance (FCA), while the Orphan’s Benefit (OB) and Unsupported Child Benefit (UCB) are for eligible caregivers outside of the statutory care system and are administered by the Ministry of Social Development.

Caregivers receiving the FCA also receive a Clothing Allowance for children in their care. In July 2018, this was extended to caregivers receiving the OB and UCB. The purpose of the clothing allowance is to cover the cost of a reasonable range of appropriate clothing; a travel bag; and replacement of school uniform items. The allowance varies depending on the age of the child; at the time of writing, rates ranged from $20.82 to $34.98 weekly. Oranga Tamariki commissioned a survey with caregivers receiving the OB and UCB, which found that caregivers did not differentiate between money spent on a child for whom an OB or UCB is received compared with other expenses.  Caregivers also said that they do not budget separately for clothing expenses.

Against this background, qualitative research on clothing and the wellbeing of children was sought to supplement the insights identified during the survey, and to provide further understanding of the role of clothing in care and wellbeing for caregivers receiving the OB, UCB or Foster Carer Allowance (FCA).

Specific questions to be answered by the research are:

  • What role does clothing have on children and their care?
  • How does clothing affect the care and wellbeing of children?
  • What barriers do children and caregivers face with access and support for clothing to participate in activities?
  • What benefits have there been from the introduction of the Clothing Allowances and increases in benefits for the care of children?
  • How do caregivers budget and plan for clothing and care of children
  • What experiences do caregivers have with clothing and the financial challenges of caring for children?

Evidence brief:

The purpose of this evidence brief is to provide an up-to-date summary of literature on the link between clothing and the wellbeing of tamariki (children) and rangatahi (young people). Oranga Tamariki provides a Clothing Allowance to caregivers receiving the Foster Care Allowance (FCA), Orphan’s Benefit (OB) and Unsupported Child’s Benefit (UCB). An evaluation of the Clothing Allowance is underway, and this evidence brief supports this work through informing understanding of the impacts of clothing on tamariki and rangatahi lives.


Research report:

A qualitative approach was adopted for the research. This consisted of 36 individual and paired in-depth qualitative interviews with caregivers receiving either the Orphan’s Benefit, Unsupported Child Benefit, or Foster Carer Allowance.

To ensure a range of views and experiences, interviews were conducted with a mix of caregivers from Wellington, Palmerston North, Levin, Auckland, and Turangi. Participants also varied in terms of their age, ethnicity and household income. A more detailed overview of those interviewed is attached as Appendix A.

Interviews were semi-structured and covered the following topics: the grouping of needs, general caregiving experiences, role of clothing in caring for children, relationship with provision of clothing and care, typical pathways for clothing provision, and impact of the Clothing Allowance. Interviews were conducted in caregivers’ homes1 between 4 October and 9 December, 20202 and were around 1.5 hours in duration. Caregivers received a koha as a thank you for their contribution to the research.

Evidence brief:

A search for peer-reviewed literature was conducted using a range of academic databases. There was limited research available that specifically focused on clothing and wellbeing of children and young people in New Zealand and other relevant jurisdictions including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland. Therefore, the literature selection parameters were expanded to include literature from Europe, the United States of America, and South Africa. In total, 55 sources were included in this evidence brief. This included a mix of academic literature, grey literature, and contextual literature from targeted searches for information.

Key Results

Research report:

  • Caregivers told us clothing provides for children’s physical wellbeing. However, it also contributes to psychological needs, firstly as a tangible expression of love/aroha.
  • It is also important for tamariki and rangatahi to enable them to connect with their peer group and develop a sense of belonging within whānau networks. It helps form and convey their identity.
  • Caregivers’ perspective is that clothing creates a first impression and affects how children are viewed and received by others. How they are clothed communicates how well they are cared for and reflects caregivers’ performance in their parenting role. I
  • For some, it offers a bonding or educational opportunity for family members to participate in together.
  • Caregivers typically access a mix of new and second-hand clothing from a range of sources.
  • Planning and budgeting for clothing differs by income level, and the age of the child.
  • Given financial constraints, those on lower incomes tend to undertake more planning and forethought when it comes to clothing.
  • Those with a higher level of disposable income are more able to engage in ad hoc clothing purchases; these are often additional outfits bought as one-off ‘treats’ and therefore not necessarily addressing a physical need.
  • The key barrier for lower income families to providing clothing is financial. Other families find this less of a challenge; moreover, they do not experience as many barriers overall.
  • At a basic level, having more funds available for clothing gives caregivers the ability to better meet the child/ren’s clothing needs.
  • The findings from this study with 36 caregivers, support the previous survey of caregivers which identified that many are unaware of the Clothing Allowance.

Evidence brief:

  • The overarching theme of the evidence sourced for this brief is that clothing is substantially important to children and young people’s physical, social, and emotional wellbeing, but access to clothing, and therefore wellbeing, is dependent on financial resources.
  • Lack of access to clothing means children and young people in impoverished or low-income households face barriers to participation in important aspects of their lives, and puts them at risk of social exclusion, teasing and bullying within social, educational, and extracurricular spheres.
  • Barriers to accessing clothing therefore need to be addressed.
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