14 May 2021

Major rise in benefits needed to get children out of poverty - Auckland City Missioner

6:07 pm on 14 May 2021

The head of Auckland City Mission says the level of child poverty is worse than the official indicators show.

Woman stands in front of shelves with boxes and paper bags filled with food.

Auckland City Mission chief executive Helen Robinson said food insecurity has increased significantly since the level 4 lockdown. Photo: RNZ Insight / Sarah Robson

The latest child poverty indicators report shows that one in five tamariki sometimes run out of food to eat at home while one in three live in houses that their whānau cannot afford.

The mission's chief executive, Helen Robinson, said that is totally unacceptable, but those statistics were collected before the Covid-19 pandemic, and food insecurity has got much worse since then.

"Sadly I'd have to say that in fact food insecurity has increased significantly since the reality of that first level 4 lockdown.

"Just as an example the mission before Covid was doing about 25,000 food parcels a year and this year we'll get to somewhere between 45 to 50,000 food parcels - so the need has significantly increased."

Robinson said despite overall employment levels improving since lockdown, the situation of many women and some groups are still not back to what they were before the pandemic.

"So we're talking about people who are in part-time work or casualised labour or people in certain industries and tourism and hospitality would be two really good examples, that their reality is certainly not back to a pre-Covid norm."

She said the pandemic exacerbated existing food insecurity.

Robinson said the government is doing some positive work such as the school lunches programme.

"However the deal breaker would be a significant rise in benefit levels that we hope to be seeing in this Budget."

She said during Covid-19 when people could not work they were paid $500 a week, where a person on a jobseekers benefit now would be getting around $250 a week.

Robinson said the benefit needs to increase by around $200 each week to allow people to live their lives with dignity and to be able to put enough food on the table for them and their family.

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