Finance Minister Bill English has denied a claim that government departments are manipulating data to achieve policy targets.
The Salvation Army said in a "state of the nation" report today that some official statistics reflected departments changing their policies, rather than real changes in the social indicators that were supposed to be measured.
For example, it said Child, Youth and Family had achieved an apparent reduction in substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect simply by investigating only 30 per cent of all cases notified to it, down from 42 per cent in 2010-11.
Mr English said many of the Government's other "Better Public Services" (BPS) targets used statistics that could not be manipulated by departments.
"While we welcome any debate on how progress is measured, any implication that government departments are using data and targets in a less than transparent way is completely incorrect," he said.
"Many of the Government's BPS measures - for example infant immunisation, crime, welfare dependency, ECE participation, educational attainment and total crime figures - are, or incorporate, tier 1 official statistics, which are the most important and high-quality statistics in New Zealand."
He said the report generally showed that the Government was "making good progress in key areas".
"On the Salvation Army's 22 indicators, nine show good progress, eight have not changed, three have slipped back, and there is insufficient evidence in two areas," he said.
"The report shows, for example, that the number of children living on benefits has fallen to the lowest level since at least 1998, crime rates are falling, more young people are getting NCEA Level 2, more jobs are being created and in Auckland more consents for new dwellings were issued in Auckland in 2015 than in the previous 10 years."