No improvement for Kiwi kids in poverty - report

The report shows 8 percent of our children are growing up extremely deprived (file)
The report shows 8 percent of our children are growing up extremely deprived (file)

There's been no significant improvement for children living in poverty in New Zealand, with about 155,000 experiencing some kind of material deprivation, the latest Child Poverty Monitor report says.

The report shows 8 percent of our children are growing up extremely deprived.

"Some of the problems that we are encountering in terms of health statistics are representative of a third world - not the New Zealand we've known and loved over the years," Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) housing and law spokesperson Frank Hogan says.

He says the housing crisis is largely to blame.

"Families are struggling in terms of their basic weekly incomes and it's essentially the proportion of the weekly income that's being spent on housing."

The report found:

"How long do reports such as the Child Poverty Monitor need to keep highlighting this desperate situation before comprehensive action is taken?" Salvation Army Social Policy Director Lieutenant Colonel Ian Hutson asks.

Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft says the report does have some good news in that while things haven't improved, they also haven't become worse.

"The real question is how we can change," he says.

"We have a target - most New Zealanders don't know we're signed up to the Sustainable Development Goal."

Nations who have signed up to the goal aim to halve child poverty by 2030 and Mr Becroft says that target won't be met unless we've got a plan.

"We need a comprehensive plan that looks at the issue as a whole, which will involve Government and community and business and non-government organisations."

Lt Col Hutson says the new Government leadership is an excellent time to set new targets and create a plan to help our children, and Mr Hogan says if new Prime Minister Bill English doesn't pick up the slack, things will keep sliding downhill.

"I think John Key, with the greatest respect to him, saw the issue. He had the compassion but he didn't have the spine to see it through - to see the relief that is so necessary for vulnerable children," he says.

Mr English says it's a hard issue to tackle and there's no single big thing that can be done to fix the problem, instead focusing on a wide range of measures.

"One is through raising incomes. We took some steps last year to do that where we increased benefit rates for families with children by $25 a week, the first such increase in 40 years," he told Paul Henry on Tuesday.

"The other - probably harder - bit is to deal with the complex circumstances that lock people into deprivation for a long time, and that's usually a combination of offending, welfare dependency, family violence [and] low education levels."

Mr English says the Government has a cohesive plan with two legs.

"One is raising household incomes where we can... and secondly, through our social investment toolkit, addressing the long-term, complex problems that trap people in poverty."

CPAG health spokesperson Associate Professor Dr Nikki Turner says our children deserve a better, more comprehensive plan to lift them up out of poverty.

"Cherry picking a few isolated strategies, and continuing a strategy of highly targeting only those that are seen as most vulnerable, is not changing the situation for our poorest children," Dr Turner says.

"We urgently need a comprehensive plan across all political persuasions."