Bold policy changes needed urgently to shift stagnant child poverty rates – CPAG

New statistics out today show very limited progress towards lifting children out of poverty, three years on from the Child Poverty Reduction Act being introduced, says Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).

The Child Poverty statistics for the year ending June 2021 show very small progress on some measures, and none on others. The picture is especially bleak for the tens of thousands of children with disabilities or living with a disabled parent, who experience the highest rates of material hardship, while Māori and Pacific children continue to experience unchanged, and very high rates on all poverty measures.

“Clearly the discriminatory policies which trap these children in the worst poverty need to be changed” says CPAG spokesperson Professor Emeritus Innes Asher. “We share a responsibility to make sure no child has to endure the harms of poverty. Showing compassion as a society means making sure every child in this country has the same chances in life.”

“Since the Child Poverty Reduction Bill was enacted in 2018, there has been a little improvement, but now progress has stalled,” Professor Asher says. “Not going backwards is not good enough for our tamariki. Each day, each week and each month counts for children, they cannot wait. The Government needs to get on with the job.”

Today’s poverty figures do not capture the 2021 Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, which placed financial pressure on already-struggling families. With the Omicron surge now hitting communities, children and families in poverty are more desperate than ever, and yet have been invisible in Government’s pandemic policy responses, says CPAG.

“Given the lag in this data, what’s happening today for our children is not sufficiently captured. Rents and household costs have gone up significantly in the past year and foodbank demand demonstrates that the Government is falling in its duty to children,” Professor Asher says.

“While material hardship rates have lowered a bit over the last 3 years for some groups, we suspect that private charity has played a significant role in filling some of the gaps left by the government. Systemic, sustained increases in income for low-income families are needed, rather than reliance on private charity which cannot make enough difference.”

CPAG calls on the Government to immediately bring forward the promised benefit increases, lift income support levels and to ensure all low-income families are eligible for all Working for Families payments such as the In-Work Tax Credit.

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