Govt working on kids' homelessness - Bennett

2:15 pm on 18 November 2015

The findings of a Salvation Army report into the impact of homelessness on children in Auckland is appalling Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett says.

But she insists the government is working as fast as it can to provide homes for vulnerable people.

However, the Labour Party said the report was a damning indictment on the government's failure to fix the housing crisis.

Ms Bennett did acknowledge the problems identified in the report.

"Yeah, well I think it's appalling and we don't want to see children living in those sorts of circumstances in any way shape or form, and that is certainly why we've got our social housing reform programme that we've instigated and we've put more into emergency housing.

"We just don't want to see kids living like that at all."

And Ms Bennett said she had asked government agencies to look into why many of the people in the report were unaware of the support available.

Labour's Phil Twyford said homeless people were the collateral damage of the government's housing policy.

And he agreed with the Salvation Army proposal to enshrine a child's right to adequate housing in the law, saying locking the government into such legally binding targets would be a good thing.

The Green Party, meanwhile, called on the government to uphold its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and increase the supply of state homes in Auckland.

Social housing spokesperson Marama Davidson said it was extremely concerning to hear there were a growing number of children sleeping rough in Auckland, but she was not surprised.

She too supported a more formal commitment to housing for children within New Zealand statutes.

'To give them some backbone in our own legislation and the particular legislation they're referring to, UNCRC, is one of the most widely supported around the world.

"So the only way we are going to uphold our obligations and look after our families and caregivers, is to actually put these into legislation."

Ms Bennett said the law already provided such protection.

"The Vulnerable Children Act that we put through Parliament last year - that certainly talked about the rights of children, equally under the Housing and Tenancy Act MSD are already required to consider children's current housing," she said.

Strengthening Families is a group of community and government agencies that helps families access social services.

Coordinator Erin Siu said 98 percent of the families she saw could not afford a private rental and many ended up sleeping in cars or garages while they waited for a Housing New Zealand home.

"There's no houses to put them in, we're finding even hotels are quite full so we can't even place them there.

"Lodges aren't necessarily suitable for children but when, you know, they're in a car what's the next best thing? So, I'm finding that we're quite stuck," she said.

The Salvation Army said Auckland was short of 20,000 homes and it wanted the government to build an extra 1000 each year for the next 10 years.

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