Child poverty: Grim stats show need for urgent action - Greens

More than a quarter of Māori children and 37% of Pasifika children live in homes where food sometimes or often runs out, while 34% of children live in unaffordable housing, the latest child poverty indicators shows.

Child (file photo).

The Annual Report for the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy and the Child Poverty Related Indicators Report for 2020/21, showed a picture of the wellbeing of New Zealand's children prior to the Delta and Omicron outbreak.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the report highlighted, "the good progress made to lift children from poverty and the work still to do".

Fifteen per cent of children up to 14 years old live in homes where food sometimes or often runs out - a 5% drop from the previous year.

That included 26% of Māori children and 37% of Pasifika children living in homes where food runs out often or sometimes.

There are 34% of children living in unaffordable housing (in homes spending more than 30% of disposable income on housing).

While 10% of Māori children, 10% of children with disabilities and 12% of Pasifika children reported to live in homes with major dampness or mould problems.

The 2020/21 child wellbeing report suggested that one in four rangatahi Māori experienced high levels of psychological distress and one in three experienced discrimination.

One in four Pasifika children experienced food insecurity and the same amount experienced high levels of psychological distress.

Over half of children with disabilities experienced high levels of psychological distress and one in five lived in material hardship.

Green Party's Jan Logie said the statistics of the report was "predicable and disappointing".

"We need more urgent action," she said. "While three of the five indicators show improvement, that's not really the level ambition we’ve got for our children. It's a very different story when you get down to reality for Māori, Pasifika and children with disabilities."

"We're not comfortable accepting this level of inequity and struggle... We need bold solutions," she said, which included 'liveable' incomes, rent freezes and free public transport.

Ardern said that there was no "silver bullet to fix the long-term disadvantages faced by many, but the range of measures contained in our plan are making a difference".

"Our Families Package and other measures like lifting the minimum wage and benefits, expanding free lunches in schools, making doctors’ visits free till the age of 14, and expanding primary mental health services are making a difference and there is clear evidence they are improving the lives of many children.

"We also see the effects of Covid-19, with more children reporting instances of psychological distress than before the pandemic.

“To address this, we’ve supported more children to access support through the expansion of the Mana Ake child mental wellbeing programme to five extra District Health Board areas, boosted funding to Youthline by $1 million, put more counsellors into 164 schools, and have delivered 350,000 free counselling sessions through our Access and Choice programme.

“We know we have more to do with disparities persisting for Māori, Pasifika, rainbow and disabled children and young people," Ardern said.