21 Oct 2020

Calls for Labour to fast-track child poverty mandate

2:36 pm on 21 October 2020

Anti-poverty campaigners are urging Labour to move fast and use its massive electoral support to forcefully tackle inequality.

Fridge interior almost empty due to economic crisis

Photo: 123rf

The Child Poverty Action Group is one of several advocating for the new government led by Child Poverty Reduction Minister Jacinda Ardern to immediately raise income support.

Campaigner Janet McAllister said benefit levels were so low they locked many children into severe poverty.

She told Morning Report that Labour's plan announced before the election included welfare reforms focusing on adequate incomes for families receiving benefits.

"We're saying you need to prioritise children and enact these plan immediately. They got the mandate, the need is urgent and they have the opportunity. So they should put children first and have faith that their voters - indeed all of us in New Zealand - care about children."

The Welfare Expert Working Group had last year recommended that a significant rise in benefit payments, 47 percent, for the poorest families would be required to lift more people out of poverty.

McAllister said child poverty was a problem created by politicians.

"Child poverty literally doubled overnight when National cut benefits in the mother of all budgets in 1991. The same way this Labour government can reduce child poverty almost overnight."

She said children needed to be at the centre of policymaking. "You're either helping children or you're the roadblock."

Labour's 2017 policy announcement promised to lift 100,000 children out of poverty by this year, but UNICEF has ranked New Zealand as one of the worst places in the developed world for children.

Last month Ardern said the government was on track and data from 2018 showed about 18,000 children lifted out of poverty. But she said all the other changes brought in estimated to help about 50,000-74,000. "We're having to run estimates of the impacts we've made rather than real data," she said then.

"My goal is to eradicate child poverty in New Zealand," Ardern said in 2017.

But figures released in February 2020 showed there has been little change in the number of children living in poverty.

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