23 February 2021  Media Releases

Big, bold action needed to continue gains for children

Bold action will be needed on incomes and housing if the Government wants to continue making progress on child poverty and material hardship, Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft said today.

Stats NZ released the latest child poverty statistics this morning showing that all official measures of child poverty were trending down prior to the COVID-19 lockdowns.

“While its fantastic to see the number of children of material hardship dropping by about 25,000 in the year before COVID-lockdowns, the real test will be whether any gains can be maintained during the tough times too,” Commissioner Becroft said.

“All children deserve to grow up in families and whānau that have what they need to flourish. The economic fallout from COVID-19 should never be the excuse to do less for some of them, it should be the reason to do more for all of them.

“Today’s results show the impact of the Governments’ families’ package. Ongoing, and sustained bold changes to benefit incomes, and policies to counter rising housing costs, will be needed to make sure the progress seen today isn’t reversed as a result of COVID-19,” Commissioner Becroft said.

Assistant Māori Commissioner Glenis Philip-Barbara said the need to protect children from the fallout of COVID-19 was particularly important for tamariki and whānau Māori, along with Pacific and disabled children.

“Nearly one in five disabled children and a similar proportion of Māori children experienced material hardship in the year to June 2020. This is more than double the rate of non-disabled and non-Māori children. The rate was even higher for Pacific children at 25.4 percent.

“These statistics only tell us one part of the story about life and wellbeing for these tamariki and whānau, but its an important part. Whānau need incomes that support a decent standard of living.

“This is why the Office of the Children’s Commissioner has been calling for benefits to be increased by between 12 and 47 percent – in line with the recommendations of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group – along with solutions to rising rents, and in-kind benefits such as free medical care to age 18.

“Working together, we have an opportunity to build on the gains seen today and make real, lasting progress for tamariki. I think we’re up for that challenge. Our tamariki and whānau are worth it,” Ms Philip Barbara said.