Key shuns Children's Commissioner's child poverty target

A target promoted by Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft  to reduce child poverty has been rejected by Prime Minister John Key who says it's not as simple as that.

The Prime Minister says it’s more important to focus on individual children rather than a specific number. Source: 1 NEWS

The new Children's Commissioner says politicians should put aside politics and agree to reduce child poverty by five to 10 per cent next year.

Few dispute there are children living in poverty in New Zealand. 

"I as a GP see the consequences of that for our children. Short-term they get sick, recurrently sick, they have dental problems, they have lousy housing," said Dr Nikki Turner, Child Poverty Action Group health spokesperson. 

But defining what child poverty is, and measuring the problem, is another story. 

"My much stronger preference is to worry about the individual children, rather than saying is the number X or Y. You can have that debate all you like, I don't think it achieves much," Mr Key said.

Labour's spokesperson on children, Jacinda Ardern, says every party seems to agree on how big the problem is except the National Party who are in Government. 

Judge Andrew Becroft says set targets, and they should relate to the 150,000 children living in "material hardship".

We've been very focused on the kids - Prime Minister John Key

That's children who may go without a bed, a warm house, new shoes and clothes, or who go hungry some days.

Dr Turner says the Children's Commissioner's call to reduce child poverty by five to 10 per cent next year is "definitely achievable". 

"We know from international data that once you decide you have a problem, you make a comprehensive plan, you decide on monitoring. You monitor, you measure and you will see results."

Ms Ardern says Labour is "absolutely on board". 

But Mr Key said: "From our point of view, we've been very focused on the kids. That's why we've put so much more money into rheumatic fever and we're getting some great results there. It's why we raised benefits by $25 a week, the first government to do that in 43 years."

Greens co-leader James Shaw says the fact that the Government refuses to use any definition of child poverty "means that they can continue to get away with not driving forward action on solving the problem".

1 News Political Editor Corin Dann says while National seems keen on targets for things like pests and protected species, when it comes to child poverty targets are off the table.