Christmas in the City Mission line: Damning poverty report highlights welfare failings

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is on the defensive after being accused of being "unjustifiably slow" to overhaul a welfare system which advocates say entrenches poverty. 

A damning report from the Child Poverty Action Group has highlighted the Government's welfare failings, which is all too familiar for Kafa Mamaia who works once a month and is on the sole parent support payment. 

Mamaia told Newshub she sleeps outside the Auckland City Mission the night before Christmas to make sure she can provide for her family. 

"I sleep there from 7 at night until the morning when the doors open. That's what we had to do last year; I'm going to do it again this year for my children's sake, just to get that extra help and some Christmas presents," she said. 

"Sometimes there's not enough lunch for my kids to go to school with [so] we have to ask the school for help."

Nearly two years ago the Government's Welfare Expert Advisory Group finished its deep dive into the welfare system. At the time, there was one word for the report's recommended changes: "urgent". 

But an audit by the Child Poverty Action Group is damning. Of 42 key recommendations, the audit found the Government has fully introduced none, partly or minimally introduced 19, and there is no evidence on a further 23. 

"They've put eliminating child poverty at the forefront of their political agenda but we're just not seeing this reflected in the level of urgency," says Child Poverty Action Group's Caitlin Neuwelt-Kearns.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern disagrees. 

"The first thing I would say is actually, we have made significant progress," she said on Monday. 

There's one recommendation the Ministry of Social Development could cover at no extra cost to the taxpayer. 

The subsequent child policy means parents who have a second child while on a benefit must go back to work when the child is one or face sanctions.

Treasury found no evidence the policy improves outcomes for beneficiaries. But the Government won't make the change until two years after the report. 

"Everything is a Budget bid but that's not to trivialize the fact we agree with that recommendation," Ardern said. 

All the while the number of emergency food grants continues to increase - more than 3500 are issued each day.