• Roger Sowry
Social Services, Work and Income

Family Start, the intensive, early intervention service aimed at helping families to help themselves, is the realisation of the coalition parties' commitment to establish a service which focuses on new-born to eight year old children, says Minister of Social Welfare, Roger Sowry.

Family Start which was announced in April, is part of the wider Strengthening Families Strategy which co-ordinates health, education and welfare services for high risk families in need of help. The service will initially be established in West Auckland, Whangarei and Rotorua, and expand the Early Start programme in Christchurch.

"While the Coalition Agreement supported a brand new stand alone agency for these families, in reality the Government found that creating another new bureaucracy was not a wise investment of taxpayer money.

"What we have done is to establish a new service for families at risk, within an existing Government framework which is designed to reach families with new born children who have the greatest difficulties, and to work with them intensively in their homes," Mr Sowry says.

Family Start is jointly funded by Education, Health and Social Welfare at a total investment of $20 million over five years.

"Family Start is initially being trailed because there is a need to learn more clearly what works for at-risk and high-risk families. We will be closely monitoring its effectiveness in achieving a positive start for children so we can consider extending the service to other parts of the country.

"In addition to this new investment last month's Budget committed an extra $101 million over the next three years for the Children Young Persons and their Families Service and the NZ Community Funding Agency to make a real positive difference to the lives of children and young people at risk and to help strengthen families.

"Government already makes a significant investment in the care and protection of New Zealand children and young people and with another Budget to come from the Coalition Government, there is room for yet more investment," says Mr Sowry.