Child Poverty Action Group calls for more financial support to help struggling families during ongoing COVID restrictions

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) wants any new financial support for low-income families to be nationwide, ongoing, and backdated to the start of lockdown to ensure public health measures can work.

While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed on Monday financial support for low-income families is on the way, she didn't give any extra details. 

CPAG spokesperson Janet McAllister says new financial support for low-income families could help New Zealand's public health success, slow down inequality, and offer relief from desperate hardship - but only if it's substantial and throughout the country.

"We need to see true hardship relief for all families on a low income whether in paid work or not - this would uplift children and our communities in so many ways. It would create an enormous number of positives," she says.

"But it needs to be nationwide, ongoing and backdated to the start of lockdown to be most effective at enabling public health measures to work. People are really struggling."

Since schools won't be reopening next week as originally planned in Auckland's roadmap out of lockdown, McAllister says families affected by this will continue facing high lockdown costs for digital access, power, and groceries. Additionally, from the start of October, families on benefits receive $31.82 less a week since the winter energy payment period has ended.

"It's a double whammy of ongoing high bills for all and an income reduction for many," she says.

"Even prior to lockdown, our research indicates many families receiving benefits could expect to have a hole of around $100 or higher a week in their budget, leading to debt, crowding and food insecurity."

She adds that food banks are "picking up the pieces of Government failure" and only alleviate people in the most urgent situations.

CPAG is urging the Government to immediately increase incomes to adequate levels for all families and ensure that everyone, regardless of if they're in paid work, knows about additional available hardship support and how to access it.

"It's important that all parents and caregivers know they're not the only ones who care for their children - the Government can give low-income families much needed reassurance, relief and confidence that we all collectively support their important mission of raising children, particularly in tough times. Those times are now."

During this recent outbreak, the Government has brought back the wage subsidy, and also included financial assistance for people who have lost their jobs and those who need to take time off work to isolate themselves. Whānau Ora is also helping with access to health and welfare services.