Solo mum living in tent with six kids in stark contrast to Government celebrating drop in child poverty

A solo mother in Gisborne living in a tent with her six children is in stark contrast to the Government celebrating a drop in child poverty rates. 

The mother doesn't want to be identified. After their rental was sold in January, mattresses became beds for her youngest - just three-months-old - through to the oldest, aged 14. 

"It's a 'week on, week off' thing whether we are OK or we're not OK," the mum told Newshub. "It's really depressing at times to be honest - you feel like you're suffocating."

There's nowhere to cook, their laundry is piled into bags - to say life is tough is an understatement. 

"It wouldn't be so bad if I was by myself - I could handle it - but I have children who have needs, that need a bed to sleep in every night and a roof over their head," the mum said. 

It's in stark contrast to the Government celebrating on Tuesday because statistics show child poverty rates are falling.

A solo mum in Gisborne lives in this tent with her six kids.
A solo mum in Gisborne lives in this tent with her six kids. Photo credit: Supplied

"Overall a reduction on every measure, so we are making good progress," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. 

There are nine measures, all of which have shown improvement over the last two years. The Government is pointing to its flagship Families Package as a key factor.

The Families Package, which included a boost to Working for Families, the Best Start payment for babies and the winter energy payment, was supposed to lift 54,000 children out of poverty.

Using the same poverty measure - which takes into account incomes before housing costs - it's actually only lifted 16,000 children above that particular poverty line.

"This is the first time in almost two decades that we've seen policies of a Government make a difference in child poverty numbers," Ardern said. "That's something I'm proud of but we need to keep going."

Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft says yes, the Government must keep going, but he says make it big and make it fast, because there are still too many children living in poverty.

"We've got money, there's surpluses - we're told it's being kept for a rainy day," said Becroft. "Ask children who are really in material hardship - they'll tell you it's pouring down outside."

And when home is a tent and winter is on its way, that rain becomes inescapable.

"What do we do then?" the Gisborne mum says. "We can't escape from winter in a tent."

The number of children living in poverty declined after Labour took office in 2017, but those improvements didn't include Māori and Pasifika kids. 

The annual figures out on Tuesday weren't able to measure the impact of COVID-19, as they only covered the nine months to March last year. 

As that point, 16,000 fewer children were living in households that earned less than half the median income before housing costs were taken out, and 22,000 fewer were experiencing material hardship. 

But one-in-five Māori children and one-in-four Pacific children still lived in material hardship - going without the basic needs. Those figures barely moved.