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Report shows no improvement for our worst-off children

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says that the results of the Household Incomes in New Zealand survey show no real signs of improvement in the quality of life for most New Zealand children living below the poverty line.

While the report presents figures to show income poverty among children aged 0-17 has decreased marginally, this decrease is insignificant and hardly evidence that policies are notably improving the situation. This report is consistent in showing that being ‘in work’ is not necessarily lifting families out of poverty, as 40% of those children living in low-income situations come from families where at least one adult is working. A staggering half of all children suffering material hardship come from working families.

There is still little change for those on the lowest of incomes (households earning less than 40% of the median income after housing costs) which evidences the failure of Working for Families (WfF) to alleviate poverty among those experiencing the greatest hardship.

Housing costs along with low benefits and wages are arguably the largest contributors to poverty, as the sharply increasing housing costs leave low-income families with little left to spend on their basic needs. Alarmingly, the report shows that half of all low-income families who receive an accommodation supplement spend more than half their incomes on housing. This underlines the necessity for measuring poverty after housing costs (AHC).

Associate Professor Mike O’Brien, CPAG’s social security spokesperson says, "As a nation, we are doing very badly by our treatment of the least well-off.

"Despite the views about how well the economy is doing, children in poverty are making at best very little progress and prospects for the longer term will not be good in the face of an economic downturn.

"Urgent remedial action should be taken to provide relief to families and to prevent the situation from worsening," says O’Brien.

"As a start, we need to focus on improving the incomes for our worst-off families.

"Working for Families could have the potential to make a real difference to the lives of many families in New Zealand if it were strengthened and better distributed for those who have the greatest need."