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Government Action Reduces Child Poverty

Government action has seen child poverty reduce against all nine official measures compared to the baseline year, Prime Minister and Minister for Child Poverty Reduction Jacinda Ardern said.

New figures released by Stats NZ today show across the board improvements in child poverty rates, with some statistically significant changes over the two years since official measures were put in place.

“Reducing the number of children living in poverty is a key priority for the Government and it’s pleasing to see our actions having a real impact on children’s lives,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Our Families Package changes have decreased the number of children living in poverty by tens of thousands.

“Today’s numbers demonstrate our actions to reduce child poverty are making a real difference in children’s lives, and they are a promising indication our goal of halving child poverty within 10 years is on track.

“The Government has implemented a range of policies to support low income families and children. Some, like the Families Package, put more money in the pockets of parents while others like healthy free lunches in schools, the scrapping of school donations and free doctors’ visits for under 14s takes pressure of household budgets and improve kids’ quality of life.

“These numbers don’t yet include the impact of the raft of changes we have made to support children living in poverty since the start of COVID; including the $25 benefit increase, indexation of benefits to average wage increases, doubling the Winter Energy Payment last year and increases to abatement rates. All these actions will further reduce child poverty.

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“We know that there is more work to do, but we estimate over 100,000 households with children are on average over $100 a week better off as a result the full range of changes the Government has made to date.

“COVID-19 has increased financial pressure on many families so the Government is committed to ongoing support for those on low incomes including raising the minimum wage and expanding the Flexi-wage scheme to create more jobs.

“There is no silver bullet to fixing the long-term challenge that is child poverty, but today’s numbers show the actions we have taken so far are working and we are making progress as we continue work to make New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Actions the Government has taken to help reduce child poverty:

· $5.5 billion Families Package increased financial support for low income families, including increases to the Family Tax credit, Accommodation Supplement changes, Winter Energy Payment, and Best Start Payment.

· Indexation of main benefits to average wage growth for the first time in New Zealand’s history.

· Increasing abatement thresholds to increase the amount beneficiaries can earn before their benefit reduces.

· Lifts to the minimum wage from $15.75 in 2017 to $20 as of April 2021.

· $2.8 billion COVID income support package, which increased benefits by $25 per week, doubled the Winter Energy Payment for 2020, and broadened eligibility for the In-Work Tax.

· Expanding school-based health services and making doctors’ visits free for children under 14.

· Increasing funding to decile 1-7 schools that agree not to request parental donations, and removing NCEA fees.

· Expanding free healthy lunches in schools to over 200,000 children by the end of 2021.

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