New Zealand's child poverty stats show some progress, but not enough in light of COVID-19

Dr Claire Achmad, General Manager Advocacy at Barnardos, says that the statistics released today show that the increases already made to income support by the Government are having some positive impact, but much more is needed.

The decreases across the child poverty measures are not enough to mitigate the impact that COVID-19 and the rising cost of housing are having on children and families with the lowest incomes.

"The child poverty statistics released today don’t cover the COVID period, so don’t show the reality that children and families are facing. As an organisation working alongside many whānau experiencing poverty, Barnardos knows that the impact of COVID has been significant and is likely continue to deepen this year, unless Government commits to greater income support," said Dr Achmad.

Jacqui Southey, Child Rights Advocacy, Strategy and Research Director at Save the Children New Zealand says that there have been some positive changes made by the Government, but that it’s simply not enough to lift families out of poverty.

"There have been some increases to the sole parent benefit for example, which has seen a total increase of 11.4%. However, it’s still less than 30% of the average weekly wage, which is seriously eroded when the steeply rising cost of housing is considered," said Ms Southey.

Sonya Marshall, Head of Policy and Advocacy at Whānau Āwhina Plunket, says that if our country is going achieve the targets set by the Government for child poverty reduction, we need to see a clear plan about how to get there and we need to see it in this year’s Budget.

"Our evidence-based approach to prioritising public health has served New Zealand well in the response to Covid-19 - yet we consistently rank amongst the lowest of the world’s richest countries for the wellbeing of our children.

"It is essential that we see immediate, direct action by the Government on this pervasive public health crisis," said Ms Marshall.

Dee-Ann Wolferstan, CEO of Te Kāhui Mana Ririki, says that Māori and Pacific peoples, and in particular rangatahi, have been most impacted by the economic fallout from COVID-19.

"What we know from past economic shocks is that people in low-paid work are the most vulnerable to job loss and economic disruption. We also know that Māori are highly over- represented in these groups," said Ms Wolferstan.

The official statistics released today show that Māori tamariki continue to experience higher rates of poverty than pākeha children.

Five to Thrive says that the Government has a clear social mandate, as well as a moral obligation to increase income support to ‘liveable’ levels, based on polling data released earlier this week. The poll, commissioned by a ‘super-group’ of NGOs including Five to Thrive, showed that 7 out of 10 New Zealanders agree that the Government should increase income support for those on low incomes and not in paid work."

Five to Thrive will continue calling for the Government to implement its asks on family poverty in the lead up to the Wellbeing Budget in 2021, and is looking forward to discuss the asks with the Prime Minister and Government Ministers over the coming weeks.