Families may find this lockdown worse than first, says Child Poverty Action

The Spinoff

Families still struggling after previous lockdowns may find the current Level 4 lockdown worse than the first one.

They need more government support, says Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).

Vulnerable families stand to lose a lot during level 4 lockdowns.

Their food budgets suddenly have to cater for lunches the Government’s school lunch programme usually provides.

Data and phone use for children’s online learning increase, adding stress to the household budget, says CPAGs Janet McAllister​.

Research shows grocery prices increased during previous lockdowns; people’s panic buying and stocking up meant cheaper brands often become unavailable.

McAllister says grocery shopping is likely to get more expensive.

Before the latest lockdown, Stats NZ says food prices were up 2.8 per cent on a year earlier. At the same time, annual inflation was at a near-10-year high.

Many of New Zealand’s poorest families may find the effects of this current lockdown worse than the first unless the Government lifts incomes and makes it easier for them to get support, says McAllister.

“The pandemic, in general, is increasing the cost of living for people at the bottom end faster than it is increasing it for anybody, and lockdowns are a contributing factor to that.

“Effects pile on top of each other – families still dealing with the issues from previous lockdowns will be hard hit again by this new lockdown and we are concerned they may have to deal with worse situations now than last year.”

She suggests the government implement next year’s planned benefit increases now, as a Covid-19 relief measure.

A CPAG report on the pandemic’s impacts on low-income children during the first Covid-19 year (March 2020-21) provides insight into these concerns.

The financial stresses and educational stresses are harder on people who don’t have very many resources, McAllister says.

“Obviously those effects can last longer. If you go into debt it can take longer to pay it off…

“It’s great the Government has already activated wage subsidies but our most disadvantaged families must not be overlooked – people receiving benefits also need assistance with the high costs of lockdown.”

The Government has paid out $484 million in wage subsidies during the current lockdown.

Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) co-ordinator Brooke Pao Stanley​ says not having enough food is the biggest problem for many people.

“Being at home all day, every day means all of us, our whole families are consuming way more food at home.

“Also not having enough money to pay for bills, people are worried about having to pay their rent.

“We as an organisation are worried about people who don’t have access to a phone or internet and not having Work and Income offices open means people will slip through the cracks.”

Another issue is that people are finding it harder to get help such as food grants compared with the previous level 4 lockdown, she says.

The Minister for Social Development says Work & Income’s Covid-19 financial support tool shows the range of help available. People can access help via their MyMSD or by phoning 0800 559 009.


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