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New Zealand entered the recession with families already in poverty and the economic conditions have only made things worse - leaving over 200,000 children living in benefit dependent households, a new report shows.
The inaugural Vulnerability Report by the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services said hundreds of thousands of families were living in poverty and the social services sector was under-resourced when the recession began.
As the economic environment worsens, low and fixed income earners have struggled to keep up with increases in the cost of necessities, the report said.
The Consumer Price Index increased 3 percent and the Food Price Index 6.8 percent in the year to March.
Rent and electricity prices have also risen and low income earners have not kept pace, the report said.
"It is clear that the recession is making life more difficult for many people and placing even greater strain on helping agencies."
The recession has seen increased applications to Work and Income New Zealand for hardship assistance, the Salvation Army had a 44 percent increase in people seeking food assistance, Wellington's Downtown Community Ministry foodbank had empty shelves six weeks after its last food day appeal and the number of people being declared bankrupt was trending upwards, the report said.
To the year ending March, 211,736 children were living in benefit dependent households, information obtained under the Official Information Act showed.
"Children in beneficiary households are much more likely to experience poverty and hardship."
Children's wellbeing correlates with their parents' employment and as the number of people on benefits increases "we anticipate growing child poverty in New Zealand".
Family violence is also an issue with the National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges reporting increased demand for its services.
The Vulnerability Report will be produced every quarter to "monitor the level of economic and social hardship".
Information in the report is collected from government agencies and community based organisations.