Protecting Kiwis from COVID-19 has been and remains a central focus of our Government – but, even with the challenges of the pandemic, we’ve continued to make progress on long-term issues like housing affordability, water quality, climate change, and child poverty.
COVID hasn’t made these problems go away. In fact, it has made some of them worse. We know that child wellbeing, in particular, has been negatively affected. Lockdowns have hit everyone hard, but those with the least have suffered most. That’s why ensuring no whānau is left behind has been critical to our response so far.
Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve lifted the minimum wage to $20 an hour, made historic increases to main benefits, doubled the Winter Energy Payment for 2020, made free period products available in all schools and kura, and expanded the Flexi-wage scheme to create more jobs, among other initiatives.
More recently, we’ve made improvements to Working for Families that will see more than 300,000 families better off by an average of $20 per week from April 2022 – and 6,000 more children lifted out of poverty.
The Family Tax Credit was scheduled to have an inflation increase, but to recognise the impact of COVID and the increased cost of living, we’ve made an additional investment so struggling families get the extra help they need. Best Start is also going to have an inflation increase on 1 April – plus, we’ve lifted the abatement rate for the Family Tax Credit from 25 to 27%, to reach those who need it most.
A $5 increase to the Foster Care Allowance and the Orphans and Unsupported Child benefits will help some of our most vulnerable tamariki, and the people who care for them.
We’ve also delivered on our promise to extend the living wage to cleaners, caterers and security guards on public service contracts, to ensure more Kiwi families can afford a decent standard of living.
These investments build on the substantial work our Government had already done pre-COVID to improve the wellbeing of our children and help whānau afford everyday essentials.
That work – which has seen child poverty reduce against all nine official measures – includes rolling out free, healthy lunches in schools, boosting thousands of families’ incomes through the Families Package, making doctors’ visits cheaper for more than half a million Kiwis, and making going to school cheaper by scrapping NCEA fees and most school donations.
There’s still more to do, but our efforts to put kindness at the heart of our COVID response are already making a different for families across New Zealand. Now, we’re working to ensure our recovery locks in those gains and builds on them, to make Aotearoa the best place in the world to be a child.
You can read more about work on child wellbeing here, and more about our priorities here. Stay in the loop with the latest announcements by signing up to our mailing list and following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.