Report finding 18,000 more children pushed into poverty disputed by Jacinda Ardern

An estimated 18,000 children have been pushed into poverty since COVID-19 - a sign the pandemic has affected low-income earners the hardest.

The report from the Child Poverty Action Group points the finger of blame squarely at the Government but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is disputing the numbers.

One Auckland teen who's currently in emergency housing says COVID-19 was the tipping point. 

"COVID lockdown was pretty rough... couch surfing with family... out on the streets... if I had to I'd sleep at internet cafes or park benches, anywhere like that," he told Newshub. 

He's not alone. The Child Poverty Action Group's latest report estimates 18,000 more children are in poverty since the first COVID-19 lockdown last year - that's a 10 percent increase.

"Homelessness has increased, financial insecurity has increased, food insecurity has increased and all the mental health issues around that have increased," said Leah Bain of the Public Health Association. 

Report finding 18,000 more children pushed into poverty disputed by Jacinda Ardern
Photo credit: Newshub.

It's had a massive flow-on effect; infant immunisation rates have dropped, chronic school absences have gone up and double the number of foodbank parcels are going out.

"It doesn't include the rise in rents - it's just talking about the income that's coming into the household before they pay housing costs," said Janet McAllister of the Child Poverty Action Group. 

But by the Government's official measure, 43,000 children have been lifted out of poverty and it's been at the forefront of its COVID-19 response.

"As soon as COVID hit us, that first package of response did include an immediate lift to benefits as a result," Ardern said. "Then in the last Budget, you saw us move there again - well over $100 a week extra."  

But that hasn't reached everyone. 

"I wouldn't know what a home is you know, cause I've been sent around for so long that once I do get stable, then it wouldn't feel like that cause it would just be another place," the homeless teen said.