Save the Children is welcoming the Government’s lift in benefit rates announced today in Budget 2021 but is urging the Government to be courageous in its investment to lift children out of poverty.
Today’s announcement of an increase in the main benefits (of between $32 and $55 per person per week, and an additional $15 per week per adult in families with children) is a significant step towards addressing New Zealand’s child poverty.
“While we welcome the additional support for our tamariki and whānau, particularly with a portion of these payments beginning from July, for many families facing rising housing costs these income lifts won’t significantly shift their standard of living and the full effect of the increase won’t be felt until 2023,” says Save the Children’s Advocacy and Research Director Jacqui Southey.
“The Government’s recent child wellbeing report shows that the wellbeing of our tamariki is directly related to the level of income of their family and children on the lowest incomes have higher rates of food insecurity and poor health.
“While we acknowledge the Government’s ongoing commitment to child poverty – and that today signals the largest increase in benefits in a generation – we hope this signals a turn in the tide to the demeaning benefit custs of the early 90s. We still have a long way to go to achieve liveable incomes for our whānau on the lowest incomes and urgently need to see continued investment.”
Ms Southey also highlighted the indexing of child care assistance to the average wage as a win for families struggling to afford childcare and the targeted investment in housing for Maori as essential in realising the potential of whānau Maori, who currently account for 50% of the emergency housing waitlist.
Save the Children continues to call for urgent investment in maternal mental health and in addressing New Zealand’s housing crisis, alongside its Five to Thrive partners Barnardos, Te Kahui Mana Ririki, and Whānau Āwhina Plunket.
Says Ms Southey: “We know the wellbeing of the child depends on the wellbeing of the mother. For so many of our most vulnerable, the daily struggles they are facing are closely connected. By getting foundations of timely mental health support, a home and adequate incomes right, we can make a tangible difference to families in this situation.
“Sole parents are particularly disadvantaged when it comes to the housing crisis making up almost a third of those the emergency housing wait list. Urgent and targeted investment is needed.”