Heather du Plessis-Allan: Poverty figures a sigh of relief for PM - but will it last?

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Tue, 23 Feb 2021, 4:49PM

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Poverty figures a sigh of relief for PM - but will it last?

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Tue, 23 Feb 2021, 4:49PM

I imagine the Prime Minister breathed a sigh of relief with these child poverty figures out today. 

They are a bright spot on something she really cares about: they’re heading in the right direction. 

She’ll be pleased, I imagine, on two fronts. 

The first is, obviously, the fact that there were fewer children in poverty.  There are nine different measures in these stats.  The most important is ‘material poverty’.  This is where families can’t afford some basics like doctor visits, fruit and vegies, or paying power bills.  There were 20,000 fewer children in material hardship. 

The second is that she’s been given a year’s reprieve on political attacks on her record here. 

She’s been wearing criticism for the last year that she’s done little to nothing on child poverty, based on last year’s stats, and that would’ve stung given this is central to her brand.  She has said this is the reason she got into politics. 

The Prime Minister can take credit for turning these numbers around. 

A lot of this will have to do with her government’s families’ package rolled out three years ago which puts money in the pockets of poorer families. 

As always, there is a “but” here, and the “but” is that these numbers are almost certainly already out of date. Because of Covid.

What we’re hearing from the front line – people like the Salvation Army, KidsCan and so on – is that already they’re handing more food than before. 

The Salvation Army says it handed out 113,000 food parcels last year which is nearly double the year before. 

Kidscan says it feeds 40,000 kids every day, up from 30,000 pre-Covid.  

So what it means is that sigh of relief the Prime Minister is probably breathing today, might be short-lived. 

Unless she does something massive to help those families right now – and possibly even despite it – next year’s numbers might not be flash. 

Now I don’t know the extent to which voters will lay the blame for that at her feet next year. It’s a pandemic after all. But we already know it’s happening, so if we really care, we should be doing something right now. 

But still, the Prime Minister’s had to wait three years for these numbers to prove she is doing something and so today she definitely deserves the credit for moving these numbers in the right direction.