NZ First's anti-discrimination policy could be promising

With a new government undecided, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) urges participants in coalition talks to prioritise child wellbeing policies.

"Fixing Working for Families (WFF) is imperative and fundamental if we want to see a meaningful and lasting reduction in child poverty in New Zealand," says Associate Professor Susan St John, CPAG economics spokesperson.

National has indicated that it is looking to reduce number of children below the lowest poverty line by 100,000 within the next three years. National’s policy is to increase the weekly payment for children that goes to all low-income families, but confines that payment more closely to the very lowest-income families.

“This policy is very tough for low-income working families who earn more than the very low threshold of $36,350, which is set to reduce to $35,000 on April 1,” says St John.

Both Labour and Greens policies would greatly improve the operation of Working for Families for low-income working families, with the Greens also determined to remove the discrimination that sees 230,000 of New Zealand’s worst-off children left out the In-Work Tax Credit (IWTC).

“The IWTC is a substantial part of the WFF payment, worth at least $72.50 a week and given to the caregiver to address child poverty, but the policy by which it is delivered is highly discriminatory,” says St John.

“It is currently denied to the worst-off families,” says St John.

“New Zealand First’s policy to “ensure any government support is based on need and not race or any other factor” is highly relevant to removing this crippling discrimination that has helped lock the families who need the most help into a cycle of despair.”

CPAG says that if National were to adopt this policy, it would greatly aid the achievement of their poverty target of 100,000 fewer children in poverty, without the need again to sharply reduce the threshold. It would help Labour too, with their other policies, to make very significant gains in child poverty outcomes.

"Universalising the IWTC among all low-income families irrespective of their hours of paid work or if they're on a benefit, would be a very cost-effective, fiscally responsible coalition policy,” says St John.