Increasing housing and food costs are among the reasons why 18,000 Kiwi children may have been pushed into poverty last year, according to new modelling by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).
A newly-released report by CPAG found Māori and Pacific children were up to three times more likely to end up in poverty.
Meanwhile, community groups are increasingly being relied on to help out.
Former boxer and fitness guru Dave 'Buttabean' Letele set up a community kitchen in Manukau on the eve of the first Covid-19 lockdown last year when he realised families had empty cupboards.
“Right there, it broke my heart. Right at that moment, I knew we had to do something. ‘Cause we could, so we did,” he said.
That kitchen has grown and now has the capacity to feed up to 1000. For a small koha, people can take home kai and no-one is turned away.
Letele has raised more than $200,000 for the kitchen, and he’s hoping for more support for other community programmes.
In the South Island, Whānau Ora is seeing more people asking for help.
Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu chief executive Helen Leahy said she’d seen an “exponential increase” in the past three months.
“We've had something like 7000 applications which equates to around 31,000 whānau members. These are whānau who may have never asked for help before but because of the underemployment and unemployment they're facing, they're simply struggling,” she said.
Report co-author and CPAG researcher Janet McAllister said the group’s research showed the negative impacts on children weren’t only because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“They are the result of Government policy as well and we can change this. It doesn't have to be this way and it is possible to ensure that everybody is looked after,” she said.
However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her Government has helped soften the impacts of Covid-19.
She said Budget 2021 delivered “substantial changes” to the welfare system to respond to the growing issue.
These included increases in benefits for families with children ranging from $36 to $55 per week. This would be implemented in two stages - the $20 per week this month, and a further boost in April next year.
But some advocates have noted the increases weren’t enough.