18,400 children lifted out of poverty

  • Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister Child Poverty Reduction

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has welcomed new reporting showing the Coalition Government is on track to meet its child poverty targets, with 18,400 children lifted out of poverty as a result of the Families Package.

Stats NZ has released the first set of comprehensive child poverty statistics since the Government set targets in the Child Poverty Reduction Act in 2018. They show seven out of nine child poverty measures have improved under this Government, compared to seven out of nine measures getting worse under the previous National Government.

“Child poverty is a long term challenge that will take time to fix, but today’s figures show that we’ve made a great start and are moving in the right direction,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Lifting children out of poverty is an important issue to me and to New Zealanders and while there are no silver bullets I will keep pushing for progress.

“Today we see the evidence that our $5.5 billion Families Package, which lifts the incomes of 384,000 families by an average of $65 a week, is starting to work to lift children out of poverty – but we know too that income is only part of the solution and that free lunches in schools are also helping kids to learn and easing pressure on families.

“Our plan to halve child poverty in 10 years is making a difference but there is more to do,” Jacinda Ardern said.

The numbers are the first indication of how the Government’s policies to reduce child poverty are working. They cover the period from mid- 2017 to mid-2019 and capture a partial impact of the Families Package, which began rolling out in June 2018 and is yet to be fully implemented.

While these numbers represent only some of the impact of the Families Package, its encouraging to know the policy is working and we are delivering on our core commitment of lifting children out of poverty.

“Policies already in place that will help to reduce material hardship – like free lunches in schools, cheaper visits to the doctors, nurses in schools, increasing school funding so parents don’t have to pay school donations and scrapping NCEA fees – are also yet to show through in the numbers. These will combine to have a positive impact on our children’s wellbeing,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson said the reduction in the number of children in poverty was evidence that the Government’s approach of investing in our people, children and families through the Families Package is beginning to have an impact.

“We followed that up with some really important initiatives in the Wellbeing Budget like indexing benefits to average wages, food in schools and scrapping school donations. This year’s Budget is another opportunity for us to keep going – one of the Budget 2020 five priorities is reducing poverty and improving child wellbeing.

We are finally moving in the right direction to reduce child poverty and our Government is committed to our wellbeing approach and getting the job done, Grant Robertson said.

Editor’s notes

This 18/19 survey asks respondents to consider their incomes over the July 2017-July 2019 period. This means the impact of the Government’s $5.5 billion Families Package was only partially captured in the statistics. Future reporting will capture more of the impact from the Families Package, as well as other Government initiatives like annual increases to the minimum wage and benefit indexation.

Actions the Government has taken to help reduce child poverty:

Over the past two years, we’ve delivered policies and programmes designed to turn around New Zealand’s record on child poverty. Under this Government:

Through the Families Package and Wellbeing Budget we’ve lifted the incomes of more than 384,000 families by $65 a week, on average, now and $75 when the Families Package is fully implemented

  • 136,000 people have benefitted from the Accommodation Supplement changes
  • 1 million people have benefitted from the Winter Energy Payment (up to $31 a week)
  • 12,500 people have benefitted from the Best Start payment ($60 a week)
  • We’ve rolled out free and healthy lunches in schools to 7,000 students, increasing to 21,000 students over the next year
  • Extended paid parental leave from 18-22 weeks, to 26 weeks in 2020
  • Extended free GP visits to children under 14 (56,000 more young people)
  • Extended the Nurses in School programme to cover decile 4 secondary schools (24,000 more young people)
  • Scrapped the sanction that cuts a woman’s benefit if she doesn’t name the father
  • We’re indexing main benefits to wage growth, so families don’t fall further behind
  • Lifted the minimum wage to $17.70 an hour in 2019, further increasing it to $18.90 from 1 April 2020, and committed to increase it to $20 per hour by 2021
  • Increased abatement thresholds (the amount that people can earn without their benefit being reduced) in line with minimum wage changes
  • Introduced measures to stop predatory lending that often impact low income families
  • Released the Child and Youth Wellbeing strategy, which sets the vision that New Zealand is the best place in the world to be a child with 75 actions to drive this goal
  • We're easing the pressure on parents by scrapping NCEA fees, and increasing funding so most parents don't have to pay school donations
  • We've set child poverty targets into law, to hold governments now and in the future to account
  • We're improving the quality of housing and conditions for renters by implementing the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act 2017 and through changes to the Residential Tenancies Act 1986
  • We're reviewing the price of electricity for households, and investigating whether the prices paid are fair, and investigating the fuel markets within the context of rising petrol prices
  • Delivered more than 4,000 extra public housing places