Better support for vulnerable children

  • Paula Bennett
  • Hekia Parata
  • Tony Ryall
Social Development Health Education

More Kiwi children will get a better start in life as a result of the Government’s Better Public Services targets, say social sector Ministers Tony Ryall, Paula Bennett and Hekia Parata.

“Too many children are let down, abused or neglected. We know there is a link between early childhood experiences and poor health, substance abuse, poor educational outcomes and unemployment in adulthood,” Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says. 

“We know remedial spending is often more expensive and less effective than getting it right in the first place. For example, treating rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease costs an estimated $40 million a year in New Zealand,” Health Minister Tony Ryall says.

Result 2: Increase participation in quality early childhood education

Education Minister Hekia Parata says we know that participating in quality early childhood education (ECE) has considerable benefits for children

“We want kids to go to primary school confident, able to engage, and eager to learn. That is why our plan for education has a target of 98 per cent participation in early childhood education in 2016,” Ms Parata says.

“We are investing $1.3 billion in ECE, including $47.9 million in equity funding which supports priority learners and communities. This will assist participation in ECE by vulnerable children who are currently not receiving sufficient support to succeed in education.’’ 

Results 3: Increase infant immunisation rates and reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever

Mr Ryall says one of the best things we can do for children is to have them fully immunised from the common childhood diseases like whooping cough and measles.

“It also protects communities from epidemics – and it gets children and their families enrolled with a GP,” Mr Ryall says.

“We’ve made it a priority to increase full immunisation for two-year-olds from 73 per cent under Labour to 92.8 per cent today. Younger babies are most vulnerable, so now we’re moving the target age. Our target is 95 per cent of eight-month-olds will be fully immunised with the scheduled vaccinations by the end of 2014, and we’ll maintain that, at least until 2017.

“Rheumatic fever can develop into life threatening heart disease but this third world disease is largely preventable,” Mr Ryall says.

The National-led Government has committed $24 million to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever by two-thirds by 2017.

Result 4: Reduce the number of assaults on children

“This Government is committed to stopping the continued growth in child assaults and reducing it by five per cent over the next five years,” says Mrs Bennett.

“This is an ambitious target, but one we simply must achieve to reduce harm to children,” says Mrs Bennett.

“We are committed to stopping the rise in physical assaults of children under 16 years and reducing it by five per cent over five years to below 3000, an ambitious target considering it is set to reach 4000 on current trends.

“Not only are we committed to stopping the increase, but we want to further reduce the number of assaults beyond that.

“The White Paper on Vulnerable Children will be integral to achieving this goal. It is also supported by our commitment to social workers in schools and in hospitals, as well as workshops teaching health and education professionals to better detect physical abuse.”