John Tamihere praises Jacinda Ardern for personally getting behind child poverty reduction efforts

A leading Māori figure is applauding the Prime Minister for personally getting behind efforts to reduce child poverty even if results aren't yet quite up to scratch.

The Government released its first Annual Report for the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy and another report on Child Poverty Indicators on Thursday. They included confronting statistics, such as that one-in-five children live in households where food runs out sometimes or often. For Māori and Pacific children, it's even worse.

In that area of food insecurity, the report says there is some evidence of a downward trend, but the sample size was too small to say that with confidence. Other datasets last year were also likely affected by the pandemic.

In a statement released with the report, Jacinda Ardern, who is both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Child Poverty Reduction, said it was pleasing some Government actions were having a positive effect, but acknowledged there are still major issues. 

"Too many children live in low-income households, or experience racism, bullying or violence.  And overall, Māori, Pacific and disabled children and young people are more likely to experience worse outcomes," she said. 

"Many of the issues facing children, young people and their families are complex, stubborn and intergenerational, so we know change will take time, and will require sustained action across government and across our communities."

Appearing on The AM Show on Friday morning, John Tamihere, the Te Whānau O Waipareira Trust chief executive who ran for Parliament last year with the Māori Party and formerly served in the Labour Party, said child poverty couldn't be eliminated.

"What you can do is have a very good effort in doing this. You have got to give credit where credit is due," he said.

"This is the first Prime Minister who has put her own personal signature on having a go at this very difficult issue. No other Prime Minister has ever gone anywhere near it. Big credit for that."

He described the report as "complex" but said it laid out many of the difficulties facing families and how that creates intergenerational issues. 

"We have got intergenerational poverty. When you have intergenerational poverty and you can't free people out of that, they depreciate every generation. They get worse. Their headspace gets worse, mental health requirements for them, health requirements, criminal justice. It just becomes a quagmire of deficit funding," he said.

"Unless you start to really grind this thing out and measure bang for buck and how you are actually shifting people out of poverty and out of difficulty, you are never going to do it. So big ups to them for their first report and for trying."

He said there are a range of avenues to address issues, but some take significant time for results to become apparent. 

"We have got a multiple range of resources and investment envelopes. But they are not working well," he said. "In the Whānau Ora approach we have a very good kaiārahi who links all these services together and forms a Whānau Ora plan going forward. Some of those plans work within six months, some will take 15 years. That is how deeply embedded and difficult some individuals, families, and communities are."

He wants to see a greater focus on low-income families and a supportive, rather than punitive approach. Tamihere said in a low-income family there are often very difficult decisions being made about how to spend money. He wants people to recognise that parents in a state of stress can make poor decisions. 

While many of the statistics in the reports make for grim reading - like that 7 percent of children live in homes with "major problems with dampness or mould", 83 percent of young people still describe their family's well-being as being high.