Budget 2021 benefit bump hailed as 'wonderful' but scepticism remains over ending child poverty

Beneficiaries are the big winners in Budget 2021 with $3.3 billion heading their way, affecting some 109,000 families. 

And it's coming soon. There will be $20 more a week for all benefits from July 1. By April next year, all benefits will be lifted by between $32 and $55, and there will be even more if you've got kids. 

Tautoro in Northland does it tough. Poverty tears through the town with people sleeping in tents. It's where Leah Daniels raises her two children. 

"I'm really scraping," she told Newshub. 

On the sole parent benefit, Leah will soon get more cash. It'll help but the basics will still be unaffordable. 

"Gas just to get my kids to school," she said. "But yeah, it'll just go towards what my kids need."

Further north in Kaitaia, Jean Crossley sleeps on the couch to make room for her kids. She has to make difficult decisions for her children every week.

"It's pretty hard because then you've got to choose whether you pay this bill or you pay for the doctors or you miss out on food."

In an attempt to help children like Leah's and Jean's, the Government announced a once-in-a-generation Budget benefit bump.

But will it end child poverty?

"Well it will certainly make a significant contribution to reducing it," Robertson said on Thursday. "Up to 33,000 children will be lifted out of child poverty."

But tell that to the principal at Tautoro School, Tracey Simeon, who deals with child poverty on the frontline every day.

The $3.3 billion for benefits is an attempt to play catch-up after they were cut 30 years ago in what was dubbed the Mother of all Budgets. 

"This is righting a wrong," Robertson said. 

All beneficiaries will get a near-immediate $20-a-week more in their wallets. Come April next year, they get the full hit - a single person on the unemployment benefit ultimately gets a $48 boost to $315 per week. 

Sole parents get $36 more to $434. Couples with kids on the dole get $55 more a week to $283. Couples without kids on the dole get $55 more too to $268. 

"Boy, Carmel, it's a huge sum," Robertson told Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni. 

And for Sepuloni, it's personal. 

"It means a lot because I do understand the journey that beneficiaries are on," Sepuloni said. 

For the last two years, the Government has been bludgeoned for its failure to adopt its own expert's recommendations to increase benefits. 

But on Thursday, it actually goes further for beneficiaries with kids, and Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft is chuffed.

"Hallelujah, I mean that's front and centre, wonderful," he said. 

"We are not just here to govern - we are here to make progress," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in Parliament.  

National leader Judith Collins described the Government's package as a "budget for benefits, not for jobs", and said the Government's answer is "always more hand-outs". 

"We've now seen four Budgets from Grant Robertson and zero evidence that what he promises, he will not deliver."

The Government and Council of Trade Unions (CTU) are also designing an unemployment insurance scheme to roll out in 2023 - a bit like ACC but for jobs. If you lose your job you get around 80 percent of your income. 

To pay for it, expect to pay more tax.

"It's one of the things on the table is how it will be paid for," says CTU economist Craig Renney.

Expect the Opposition to launch a tax attack.

The Prime Minister herself dropped a jab aimed at the Opposition. 

"Much has changed in the last four years... the leader of the Opposition has changed a few times," she said in Parliament. 

A few things have remained the same: lock-up lamingtons, the Prime Minister gifting the Finance Minister a new Budget tie, and the cheese rolls they chow down as per tradition. 

But the big difference with this Budget is there's no New Zealand First.

Robertson wouldn't say if Labour was unshackled from Winston Peters. But a chuckle from the Finance Minister said it all.