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We Must Urgently Reduce Poverty So Children Can Thrive

The latest official child poverty statistics show that concerted and urgent action is needed to reduce poverty affecting families, says Chief Children’s Commissioner Dr Claire Achmad.


Child Poverty Statistics for the year ending June 2023 released today by Stats NZ show the number of children experiencing hardship in their every day lives is increasing, and the gaps for mokopuna Māori, disabled children and Pacific children remain stubborn.

“This latest official data shows that a continued focus on reducing poverty must be an ongoing project of national significance – our nation’s children are rightly asking us to prioritise action to end poverty, and it is possible”, says Dr Achmad.

“Children with lived experience of poverty tell me clearly: we need to urgently reduce poverty to realise their dreams. Believe in us, invest in us, love and care for us.

“Every child is born with incredible potential, but right now, far too many children’s dreams are sadly only for the simplest things: tummies with nutritious kai in them, less stress, and not having to choose between education or working to keep the family afloat.

“Every child in Aotearoa New Zealand should be able to dream bigger than this, rather than have the ceiling closing in on their potential because of poverty.”

The data released today shows that there have been increases across three of the nine official measures of child poverty under the Child Poverty Reduction Act 2018. Of particular concern is the jump in the percentage of children experiencing material hardship, up from 10.5% in 2022, to 12.5%.

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This means around 23,400 more children are living in homes that cannot afford at least six of the 17 items regarded as essential – things like having fresh fruit and vegetables, warm clothes and shoes and doctor’s visits.

“I’m extremely concerned about the gaps that continue for some groups of children, including our tangata whenua, children of Moana-Nui-a-Kiwa, and those with disabilities. It’s unacceptable that 21.5% of mokopuna Māori are experiencing material hardship, for 28.9% of Pacific children this is their every day reality, and for 22.3% of children with disabilities. This means that Māori and disabled children are 70% more likely to be in material hardship, while Pacific children are 2.3 times more likely.

“Since 2018, we have seen positive progress on reducing child poverty, so I’m very concerned that we are seeing rates of child poverty increasing for the first time since 2018. Ongoing political commitment must be both enduring and urgent so that targets under the Child Poverty Reduction Act are effectively set and met. At a time when the cost of living combined with low-wage work and inadequate benefits is pushing families to breaking point, we must see the Government investing in those most in need, so their children can thrive in ways that are consistent with their rights as children.”

Mana Mokopuna – Children and Young People’s Commission notes that many people in poverty are working. “It’s important that we recognise this, because it shows that even full-time paid employment on its own does not always provide enough for a basic standard of living, especially for households with children. About half the children living in material hardship come from households whose main source of income is through paid employment,” Dr Achmad says.

Evidence from Aotearoa New Zealand shows that childhood poverty can cast a long shadow over people’s lives, affecting their daily experiences, educational outcomes, mental and physical health, and employment prospects.

“We all want children to grow up in whānau that can provide them with both the basics and opportunities to reach their full potential. As a relatively small, wealthy country, it’s not good enough to see our progress to reduce poverty taking a backward step.

“We must redouble efforts now with urgency, to prevent any further deepening of poverty and reduce the weight of the stress on families that it causes.

“I’m calling on the Government to use this opportunity to invest in children now and implement evidence-based policy, helping them to experience their full potential and to dream the big dreams they should all be able to have.”

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