The government shouldn't be cracking down on beneficiaries but dealing with poverty to battle child abuse, says an independent study of the government's own data.
The Child Poverty Action Group is one of the first to analyse the government's information, and released its report, Child Abuse: an analysis of Child Youth and Family data, on Wednesday.
While there are complex contributors to child abuse, the data suggests there is no correlation between getting a benefit and child maltreatment.
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of child abuse in the developed world.
A surprising finding was that higher rates of child abuse appear to be linked to younger populations.
The report criticises the government's White Paper on vulnerable children, which it says fails to propose any measures to address deprivation.
"On the contrary it sought to trivialise the role of income poverty by introducing different sort[s] of poverty - poverty of affection, poverty of protection, poverty of expectation, poverty of educational stimulation, poverty of positive role models."
The government's focus on benefit dependency as a risk factor for vulnerable children may not be the correct approach.
"Dealing effectively with child abuse will entail paying a great deal more attention to socioeconomic deprivation than has been the case so far."
CPAG convenor Associate Professor Mike O'Brien says that given the links between poverty and child abuse, reducing the risk associated with poverty would be a good starting point.
The Greens say the report shows the government needs to stop beneficiary bashing.
"Social Development Minister Paula Bennett's White Paper for Vulnerable Children focused on benefit dependency as an abuse risk factor and yet this report clearly states there is no correlation," MP Holly Walker said.
"She should start supporting families and implementing policies to lift them out of poverty, not bury them deeper."