The Latest

March newsletter

Kia ora koutou katoa, and welcome to Child Poverty Action Group’s first newsletter for 2020. 

Like you, we’re in the middle of adjusting to life during lockdown/rahui and our thoughts are with those who are unwell or struggling at this time. Like always, we are thinking particularly about families living in poverty and what the Government must do to strengthen our social safety net. 

For CPAG, this moment contains both opportunity and worry. On the one hand, it creates a space where kind, progressive policies can be advanced. Increasingly, the types of policies we have been advocating for for years are being seen as urgent, necessary and obvious. For example, the Government’s first rescue package included one of the changes to the In-Work Tax Credit which we have long advocated for. 

However, this does not lessen the pain and worry we feel at this moment for under-resourced families and this is why we are continuing to put pressure on the Government to urgently fix the welfare system. Now, more than ever, it is clear our welfare system must be fit-for-purpose, so no one is left behind. If you are in a position to help us financially, please donate to our mahi here

At the moment we are seeing the Government move at great pace. We are keeping a close eye on the policies that are being brought in and continue to advocate for sensible, well-researched, child-centred policies that will ensure all children are taken care of and existing inequalities are not exacerbated. 

More broadly, the COVID-19 situation has meant we are changing our plans for the year. The first big change is that all of our Post-Budget Breakfast events are being combined into one virtual nationwide event. We are working through the details and will keep you posted as specifics are confirmed. 

We are also busy dreaming up new ways to virtually engage with our volunteers. Our first step into this world is through ActionStation’s online Welfare Tautoko program: a six week virtual workshop for people who want to support progressive change. We hope you will join us there. 

In non-COVID related news, we had an extremely busy first few months submitting on bills, participating in United Nations processes, and producing policy backgrounders for the Government. Details of this work can be read below.  

Mauri ora koutou. Stay safe and be kind, 

The CPAG team

In This Issue

The Government’s response to COVID-19 

Submission: Budget Policy Statement 2020

Submission: To the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing

Submission: Thematic report: Child Poverty in Aotearoa / New Zealand

Backgrounder: Briefing on reform of the In-Work Tax Credit

Backgrounder: Quick guide to the In-Work Tax Credit

Policy news

CPAG news update

CPAG blog update

Sign up as a regular CPAG donor

Keeping up with CPAG Regional Networks

Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Government response to COVID-19

As noted in our most recent press release, we have welcomed the COVID-19 stimulus package with its recognition that benefits must be accessible and more generous. Families experiencing financial stress must be well-supported and their children's wellbeing must be a priority.

Susan St John, Economics Spokesperson for CPAG says, "There is much more to do. Let's grasp this unique opportunity to make long-lasting beneficial reforms to ensure all families and their children are adequately supported throughout this crisis and beyond."

"The COVID-19 crisis will show just how ineffective the welfare system has become as a proper safety net. While it is absolutely right to have a $2.8 billion welfare package with promises of more to come, it is vitally important that policies are well-designed and reflect sound principles so that they will endure in the changed circumstances of 21st century."

Read our full response here.

Submission: Budget Policy Statement 2020

CPAG's Submission on the Budget Policy Statement 2020 (Jan 2020), written by Associate Professor Susan St John, noted that while we were encouraged to see “Child Wellbeing – Reducing child poverty and improving child wellbeing” as one of the top five priorities for the 2020 Budget, we were discouraged that many of the pressing issues raised in our 2017, 2018 and 2019 Budget Policy Statement submissions remained unactioned. We want public policy to deliver the best chance for all Kiwi kids. However, due to what we believe is deliberate policy neglect, New Zealand has a serious child poverty problem. Our submission called for an immediate and substantial overhaul of the welfare system.

Download the full submission here.

Submission: To the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing

In February 2020 we submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur on housing. CPAG’s overall perspective in this submission is that the Government’s rhetoric around housing and the relief of housing-related poverty is not being matched closely by what it is doing and achieving through its housing policies. Our perspective is that this mismatch is driven in part by a lack of financial commitment to building a sufficient stock of publicly owned social housing units and partly by an underlying policy perspective which is misinformed and fails to understand the nature of housing need and housing-related poverty amongst New Zealand’s poorest households.

Read the submission here.

Submission: Thematic report: Child Poverty in Aotearoa / New Zealand

This report was prepared in February 2020 for the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. It takes an overarching view of where we are as a country and what the Government must do to improve the lives of all children in New Zealand.

Read full submission here.

Backgrounder: Briefing on reform of the In-Work Tax Credit

This February 2020 briefing examines the reform of the In-Work Tax Credit in the context of needed reform to the whole of Working For Families (WFF) tax credits for children. In the paper Susan St John argues that meaningful reform to WFF is well overdue and suggests reforms that would greatly simplify an unworkable system that has not delivered the gains promised by work incentives or reductions in child poverty.

Read full backgrounder here.

Backgrounder: Quick guide to the In-Work Tax Credit

In February 2020 we also published a quick guide to the In-Work Tax Credit. We all want to see New Zealand children develop and thrive, free from the lifelong effects of poverty. There is no quick fix - but there is one thing this government could do today to help lift thousands of New Zealand children from the deepest poverty. With a simple tweak to an outdated, discriminatory policy, they could make the In-Work Tax Credit available to the kids who need it most of all.

Read our quick guide here.

Policy news

Child poverty figures released

In February, Statistics NZ released new child poverty statistics that reveal some small but undefining changes to the state of child poverty in NZ. The Prime Minister acknowledges that Child Poverty is a long term challenge but that this is a start to that journey. At the time of release, Susan St John, Economics Spokesperson for CPAG says ‘Put simply: these statistics do not show any change for the children living in the worst, most entrenched poverty.”

Main benefits set to rise

From April 1, main benefits will increase by over 3 percent with the Government’s decision to annually adjust benefit rates to increases in the average wage. The Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni, has said that the changes will see 310,000 families better off and comes as an important step to helping Kiwis out of poverty. In January a call was made by MoneyTalks financial mentor Adrienne Gallie for the Government to urgently respond to the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s recommendation to increase benefits. Currently, those facing financial hardships are referred to budgeting service by Work and Income. However, Professor Susan St John, CPAG’s Economics Advisor, says it is not a lack of budgeting ability but a lack of income that remains the crux of this issue.

Kaupapa Maori to underpin Govt’s new plan to aid homelessness

The Prime Minister announced the use of a Kaupapa Maori approach in the Government’s efforts to deal with homelessness. “Māori are massively overrepresented among people experiencing homelessness, so, to achieve different outcomes for Māori, we have to do things very differently,” says the Minister of Māori Development and Associate Minister of Housing Nanaia Mahuta. $24 million has been provided to support Maori-valued initiatives that prevent and reduce Maori homelessness.

Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill moving through Parliament

The Government continues to work towards making a fairer rental market with rental reforms progressing to select committee. “In selecting these changes, we have been mindful of the need to modernise the law and correct problems in a way which is proportionate, places reasonable requirements on landlords and tenants that can provide both parties with certainty,” Associate Minister of Housing (Public Housing) Kris Faafoi, said. Changes include improving tenant security and the requirement for properties to be safer and more livable.

2020 Budget date announced

The “2020 Wellbeing Budget” is still likely to be delivered on 14 May with a particular focus on targeting long-term challenges experienced by New Zealanders. But according to the Finance Minister Grant Robertson, is likely to be a very different document than what we are used to seeing.

CPAG news update

9 Jan | CPAG joins call from budget advisors for Govt to increase benefits urgently
10 Jan | Evidence of poverty relief lacking in 2020 Budget Policy Statement
18 Feb | Government must do more to address housing-related poverty
20 Feb | Period poverty leads to rangatahi missing school
25 Feb | The latest child poverty statistics are a wake-up call
6 Mar | Coronavirus crisis highlights the failures of our welfare system
19 Mar | CPAG welcomes the rescue package and offers advice for the next urgent steps

CPAG blog posts

2 Jan | In 2020 we should take a leaf out of Alberta's child poverty reduction book by M. (Claire) Dale

In 2020, the big question will be, can the Government end child poverty in Aotearoa? The answer is yes, but the steps need to be bold, and a shining success story that we can take our lead from is that of Alberta, Western Canada.

Within two years of Rachel Notley becoming Premier, child poverty was reduced by half, by boosting incomes for struggling families to an adequate level, increasing child-related benefits, increasing the minimum wage, making public transport affordable, and controlling predatory lending.

In 2020, we can do this, if Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern takes wellbeing to the next steps.

Read full blog here

9 Mar | New Zealand's welfare system fails to recognise the dignity of our people - how can we fix it? By Saralee Gore

New Zealanders believe in justice.  We care about protecting our right to a dignified and decent life.  An effective welfare system is only serving its purpose then, when it is taking care of the people at the heart of it. We know we’re not there yet. 

In 2019, the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) released a report formally defining the sentiment long felt by many – that our welfare system diminishes the dignity of those who come into contact with it.  The Welfare Expert Advisory Group has pointed to key factors of the welfare system that strip people of their dignity. But it has also given us the opportunity to redefine the “problem”. We can reclaim the narrative, the values, and the vision. 

The problem is dignity, not dependency

Read full blog here

Sign up as a CPAG Regular Donor 

If you would like to support our important ongoing work, you can become a regular donor or make a donation to ensure we can continue our research, education and advocacy work towards eliminating child poverty. 

Become a regular donor or make a donation now via our donation page

Become a regular donor or make a donation via Online banking

  • Account number: 38-9003-0066858-00
  • Reference: your name and REGDON for regular giving or your name and DONATION for a one off amount.

Become a regular donor or make a donation via Cheque - post to:

  • Child Poverty Action Group (Inc), PO Box 5611, Victoria St West, Auckland 1142.

Please email  with your details for receipting purposes.

Keeping up with CPAG Regional Networks

Currently CPAG has networks in Whangarei, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Nelson. If you're interested in attending CPAG events in your local region please sign up to your closest network mailing list.

If your organisation or event is looking for support from a local CPAG on issues that relate to our kaupapa, please don't hesitate to get in touch.


Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

For the latest news, blogs and policy updates related to child poverty, check out our Facebook page.
We are working hard at ensuring we highlight items of significance and relevance to child poverty in New Zealand, and take note of what is going on in other countries so that we can find out what works for children and what doesn't. We also aim to keep you up-to-date on local seminars that are useful and informative, as well as events that will be entertaining, and links to campaigns by other organisations in the child well-being network.
We need your help to spread the word, and we care about what you think. So join us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @cpagnz. Contribute to the discussion, like and share our posts if you find them meaningful. We value your feedback, and invite you to private message us or email us should you have a query or would like to share something with us. Our blog posts online also invite you to comment and share via social media.
With your help, we can change the narrative about poverty in Aotearoa New Zealand and make it a better place for whānau and tamariki, for generations to come.


Ngā mihi nui