New Zealand children getting better start to life

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

New Zealand children are getting a better start in life as a result of progress towards the Government’s Better Public Services results, social sector Ministers Tony Ryall, Paula Bennett and Hekia Parata say.

“This National-led Government is committed to ensuring New Zealand children are safe and healthy,” Health Minister Tony Ryall says.

“More children are attending early childhood education, more children are being immunised, more children are being protected from rheumatic fever and there are more social workers in schools,” Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says.

Result 2: Increase participation in quality early childhood education

  • Target: In 2016, 98 per cent of children starting school will have participated in quality early childhood education.

Education Minister Hekia Parata says participation in early childhood education (ECE) for children starting school has increased above the expected trend.

“Our goal is that in 2016, 98 per cent of children starting school will have participated in quality ECE. For the year ending 30 June 2013, the participation rate is 95.7 per cent, up 0.7 percentage points on the same time last year.

The Ministry of Education is focused on continuing this improvement through a variety of innovative community-based initiatives, and working closely with other government and non-government agencies.

“Regular participation in quality early childhood education significantly increases a child’s chance of future educational success. This is particularly true for children from vulnerable families.

“In Budget 2013 we have invested $172.5 million of new money in early childhood education. This brings the Government’s total investment to $1.5 billion, up from $860 million in 2007/08,” Ms Parata says.

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

  • Target: Increase infant immunisation rates so that 95 per cent of eight-month-olds are fully immunised by December 2014 and this is maintained through to 30 June 2017.

“We have already exceeded this year’s immunisation target of 85 per cent and are close to reaching the June 2014 target of 90 per cent,” Mr Ryall says.

“Latest results show 89 per cent of eight-month-olds have been fully immunised with their scheduled vaccinations, protecting them from deadly diseases such as whooping cough and hepatitis B.

“This is a great achievement and it reflects the hard work of general practice teams, Well Child providers, community outreach groups, midwives, district health board immunisation staff and the national immunisation team.

  • Target: Reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever by two-thirds to 1.4 cases per 100,000 people by June 2017.

Data for 2012 shows the incidence rate for acute rheumatic fever initial hospitalisations is lower than in 2011.

“In 2012, there were 171 initial hospitalisations of acute rheumatic fever (3.9 per 100,000) compared with 187 (4.2 per 100,000) in 2011.

“Although these figures are encouraging, it is too early to confirm the declining trend,” Mr Ryall says.

“More than 47,500 school children have joined the Government’s programme to reduce rheumatic fever. We now have 211 schools and 9 community based clinics taking part – with 146 new schools joining in the last 12 months.

“And for the second Budget in a row this year we have almost doubled our investment – from $12 million, to $24 million, to $46 million in Budget 2013,” Mr Ryall says.

Result 4: Reduce the number of assaults on children

  • Target: By 2017, we aim to halt the 10-year rise in children experiencing physical abuse and reduce current numbers by 5 per cent.

“This Government is committed to reducing child abuse and neglect in New Zealand,” Mrs Bennett says.

In the year to March 2013, 3,044 children experienced substantiated physical abuse, a 3.5 per cent reduction from the March 2012 figure of 3,156.

“While the trend is encouraging, these numbers have tended to fluctuate in the past.” 

“The Social Workers in Schools programme has been expanded to cover over 670 decile 1-3 schools, or 72 per cent of low-decile schools, and is making a difference for the safety and wellbeing of children.

“By the end of this year around 142,000 children will have access to a social worker, meaning face-to-face contact with professionals trained in dealing with complex and difficult issues.”

“The Social Workers in Hospitals initiative, introduced in 2009, is also making a positive impact with social workers now based in every DHB in the country.

“The Children’s Action Plan remains a key government priority, with a clear focus on agencies and frontline workers working together to better protect vulnerable children,” Mrs Bennett says.