When I speculated last week about how the image of the Prime Minister and her new baby might be used to help the Labour brand, I hadn't expected to have my musings backed up so soon.

In a Facebook livestream, Jacinda Ardern, baby Neve blanketed on her lap, expressed her enthusiasm for the Government's Families Package, which had its birth on July 1.

That package gives concrete assistance to low and middle-income families. An increase in paid parental leave from 18 to 22 weeks; a tax credit of $60 per week to all families for the first year of a child's life, then means-tested for the following two years; and a Winter Energy Payment of $700 to families on a benefit.

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An increase in the income threshold for Working For Families will see many families helped out by a reduction in the tax they pay.

The Government has also directed WINZ to be more proactive in making sure people know what they're entitled to. You can go to this website to find out for yourself:

This all has to be welcomed. They are the kind of measures that a majority of New Zealanders voted for, who were experiencing the struggle directly or were uneasy at the levels of poverty and inequality that had become so visible.


It's the high point for the Government so far, where image and reality come closest to aligning.

Yet there's more that could be done.

By the Government's own estimates the number of children lifted out of poverty will be 64,000 by 2020, only about 41 per cent. And there are doubts about this figure given the spiking cost of housing in the regions over the past 12 months, with Whangarei no exception.

There's anecdotal evidence of an increase in families seeking help from charities to put food on the table. The poverty levels are most likely worse than what statistics gathered a year or two ago are telling us.

The children most at risk are from single-parent families on a benefit that for too long has been insufficient to make ends meet, and where the barrier to entering the workforce is obvious.

So I'm not quite ready to accept the Prime Minister as the saint of Child Poverty Reduction just yet.

She might have more claim to that title if her Government did some of the things the Child Poverty Action Group are advocating:

1) Increase all core benefit levels by 20 per cent (back to the level they were prior to 1991) and index payments to the average wage like superannuation.

2) Cease benefit sanctions against women who fail to name the father of their child.

3) Increase the couples unemployment benefit level so parents of children are more likely to stay together.

4) Allow all beneficiaries to work at least 10 hours a week at the minimum wage before their benefit is cut. Otherwise, there's little incentive to trying to enter the workforce where most of the opportunity is, as a part-time worker.

5) And most importantly, urgently build thousands of much-needed state houses. With rents no more than 25 per cent of income.

That's a fair list to be working on.