A fresh look for Family Start programme

  • Paula Bennett
Social Development and Employment Youth Affairs

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is announcing significant changes to New Zealand’s flagship early intervention programme Family Start, to get better outcomes for families and children.

Independent reviews of Family Start commissioned by the Minister have found providers vary in effectiveness and practice standards.

“We know early intervention works, we believe it’s the right approach, but reviews show the programme’s focus has drifted over time,” says Ms Bennett.

“We need to make sure that it comes back to core principles - protecting children from abuse and neglect, making families better able to cope and increasing health and education outcomes for children,” says Ms Bennett.

“This is the result of more than two years work,” says Ms Bennett.

Changes to Family Start include:

  • New outcomes and ways of measuring them
  • An increased focus on child abuse detection/prevention
  • Making sure it is reaching families who need it most
  • A new team of specialist technical advisors

“This programme has been running for 13 years with some success, but we believe it could be much more effective,” says Ms Bennett.

“Successive governments have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Family Start since 1998 and we need to be sure we’re getting results,” says Ms Bennett.

“At the Home Visiting conference in Washington DC last month, I met with 400 of the top early intervention providers in the US.

They are achieving good results for families while maintaining a strong focus on protecting children from abuse and neglect. I came home convinced that we can achieve better outcomes here,” says Ms Bennett.

The new programme standards and guidelines will be introduced in stages over two years to allow providers time to refocus their programme delivery.

“By explicitly requiring Family Start providers to focus on outcomes for children and preventing child abuse and strengthening social work practice and supervision, we expect to see some real results.” says Ms Bennett.