Child poverty declining before Covid-19, but latest stats 'profoundly bad news' for children with disabilities – Children’s Commissioner

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

Child poverty in New Zealand was going down before Covid-19 hit, however 125,000 children are still living in material hardship, the latest statistics show.

Anti-poverty groups are disappointed a social investment approach is being entrenched in legislation.

Māori and Pasifika children, and those with disabilities are much more likely to be living in poverty, according to the data.

The latest child poverty statistics showed 11 per cent of children (125,200) were still living in material hardship, a 2.2 per cent drop from the previous year.

There were 53,000 children living in severe material hardship.

The household surveys were taken in the nine months up until March 2020, where all face-to-face meetings ceased due to Covid-19.

Disability status has been added to the survey for the first – with the new figures showing children with disabilities and children who live in homes where someone has a disability are more likely to be in poverty.

Nearly one in five children with disabilities lived in material hardship – about double the rate of children without disabilities.

The Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft said today’s numbers were “profoundly bad news” for children with disabilities.

Material hardship is whether a house cannot access six or more of 17 basic essential items, such as having a serious restriction on being able to eat fresh fruit and vegetables or putting off a doctor’s visit due to financial strain.

The report said 19 per cent of Māori children were in material hardship as well as 25.4 per cent of Pasifika children.

Stats NZ’s Sean Broughton said that all measures of child poverty “showed downward trends from the year ended June 2018, with some statistically significant decreases”.

A primary measure of child poverty was whether a child is living in a home with less than 50 per cent of the median household income ($42,561).

Before taking away household costs, there were 14.6 per cent (167,100) children in those households. This rose up to 20.9 per cent (238,800) children once household costs were deducted.

Broken up into ethnic groups, it saw 18.5 per cent Māori children, 20 per cent of Pacific children and 11.7 per cent of European children in those groups.

The median household disposable income actually increased 7.6 per cent ($3.018) – but the lowest 20 per cent of income earners only experienced small increases, compared to the middle earners.

“The increase in income at the lower end of the income distribution wasn’t enough to keep up with the increases seen for the ‘average’ New Zealand household,” Broughton said.

Part of the Government’s family package was reflected in the data, Stats NZ said.