Government needs to step up to address child poverty ahead of Budget 2022 – Child Poverty Action Group


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 paediatrician 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:

1. Disability Families in the greatest hardship are those with disability – where a child or a parent has a disability. Disability requires more resources, as recognized by the Child Disability Allowance and Disability Allowance. However they haven’t been increased for years. They need to be trebled.

2. 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 .

3. 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.”


  1. There is no point in putting up the benifit if the main landlord is the private sector as they will just put up the rent. The government needs to buy up a hug portion of the private owned rentals then set the market rent from a potion of strength.
    Children need support at schools with free meals and both breakfast and lunch. This would stop drop kick parents from spending the benefit on themselves instead of the children and if school meant food more might attend on a daily basis.
    Parents with disabled children need more help,and would be a better spend than throwing bribes at council to fall in line with 3 Waters.

    • Good points, Trevor. How about writing to the Min of Housing re government buying up existing housing ? If you can incorporate it into an OIA request then she has to reply to you, and maybe send a hard copy – it’s not clear if the minions doing the Bowen Street email scanning are particularly efficient.

      Decent school meals, absolutely. I got free meals teaching in London by doing playground and library duty; better quality than we could afford at home; roast pork with spuds and masses of graving was a mood booster, and there’s a communality for children in having a proper warm sit-down cafeteria space; any sort of positive focus for children often living fragmented sorts of lives is beneficial, they need to know that they matter. Big thing seems to be how to convince the politicians that every child counts.

      • Thank you Snow White . The lack of comments shows me that few really care . If we cannot look after the next generation better they will not be able to look after us as we get older

  2. must admit I was shocked school dinners weren’t a thing in NZ…back in 60/70S (yes it’s another eeeee when I were a lad) we had free school dinners for poor kids and heavily heavily subsidised ones for the rest..usually some form of mystery meat, 2 veg and spuds in some form followed by a stodgy pud usually with custard.
    does it meet modern dietary recommendations, no but it fitted perfectly with nutritionists recommendations back then(dietary fads change more frequently than the seasons)

    one of the problems I foresee is endless debates on the ‘menu’ rather than practical action on the ground…start with meat spuds and 2 veg and a vegan option…no arguments no debates and ‘improve from there’


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