Hardship tailored to suit government coffers

The Government appears to have magic-ed a figure out of a hat to base its child poverty policy on, Labour’s Children’s spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.

“Official figures show there are 305,000 New Zealand children now living in poverty, based on their family’s income.

“National made a big song and dance about helping these kids when it announced its flagship Support for Children in Hardship policy earlier this year.

“However information released under the OIA shows income measures were ignored and a figure was arbitrarily chosen by Ministers making a ‘judgement call’ of around 60,000 to 100,000 children.

“Email correspondence also shows that MSD’s principal analyst, Bryan Perry – who produces its Household Income Report – highlighted that did not ‘mean that there are no others in hardship’.

“He advised it would be easier to explain hardship as being on a spectrum and suggested the focus should be on pushing the line that ‘we all want to see all levels of hardship decline’.

“The result of all this means only a small portion of our poorest families are being given further support – and it works out at a paltry $23 extra a week per family.

“The Government continues to ignore the role that income plays in child poverty – and worse yet, they are manipulating figures to produce the smallest target group possible, only lifting 10,000 children out of severe poverty.

“Labour has always argued that child poverty will not be addressed as long as the government avoids the core of the issue – and that is household incomes. Playing with the figures doesn’t change anything, and it certainly doesn’t help kids.

“If the government really wanted to help a greater number of children in hardship, including those on benefits, it could have increased the Family Tax Credit that was introduced by Labour for low income families,” Jacinda Ardern says.