Government needs to step up to address child poverty ahead of Budget 2022
Professor Innes Asher says it’s time for the government to take bigger steps to address child poverty. Families want their children to thrive but those locked in severe poverty cannot. Speaking on Breakfast TV this morning Professor Asher calls on the government to implement three key measures immediately to enable children to thrive in New Zealand.
“Statistics New Zealand figures show around 150,000 children affected by severe poverty and that figure is static. Far too many whānau are without adequate food, safe housing, and access to necessities that enable their children to develop their full potential.”
Asher, a retired pediatrician and Research Chair of the Child Poverty Action Group, has seen first-hand how children suffer from lack of housing and other necessities in New Zealand. “The system has consistently under-resourced too many families for a long time. Incremental slow improvements are not sufficient when families in severe poverty need rapid and wide systemic change to policies that affect children.”
Asher argues the first steps to free these families from the trap of poverty is to make crucial and immediate changes across three key areas:
- Disability Families in the greatest hardship are those with disability – where a child or a parent has a disability. Disability requires more resources, as recognised by the Child Disability Allowance and Disability Allowance. However they haven’t been increased for years. They need to be trebled.
- Working for Families tax credit package is a vital source of income for low-income families. There is a crucial payment of $72.50 per week for a child or more for larger families. This amount can stop families falling into the most severe poverty. However, if a parent receives a benefit they are not allowed to receive this crucial payment. All low-income families must be given this tax credit, worth around $4000 per year after adjustment for inflation.
- Houses All families need a home to thrive. The housing register has never been larger (26,968 applicants) , and nearly half of these (11,323) are families with children. The government needs to build 5000 new state houses per year.
Professor Asher argues that “the solutions were evident well before Covid hit. The Government’s new net debt analysis allows us more wriggle room to address these issues.”
The number of applicants on the Housing Register has increased 13.4% since last year. This data is contained in the latest stats provided by MSD. Housing Register - Ministry of Social Development (msd.govt.nz) The number of applicants now sits at 26,868 (as at 31st March 2022). The Housing Register contains applicants not currently in public housing who have been assessed as eligible and who are ready to be matched to a suitable property. The trend shows an increase each year.
Figure 1. Graph shows increase in applicants on the Housing Register since 2017