Thousands of Children to Benefit from Expanded Social Workers in Schools Programme

  • Nick Smith
Education

The Minister of Education, Nick Smith, and the Minister of Social Services, Work and Income, Roger Sowry, announced today the schools that will be invited to participate in the Government's expanded Social Workers in Schools programme.

The 131 schools are located in 29 priority regions across the country (see attached appendix).

"These regions will be able to benefit from the Government's Strengthening Families strategy that is designed to improve the wellbeing of children, young people and their families," said Mr Sowry.

"The proposed expansion of the Social Workers in Schools programme, which is part of the Strengthening Families strategy, would enable around 35,000 children in primary and intermediate schools to soon be able to call on school-based social workers for help."

"social and family problems have a huge impact on learning. Having social workers in schools will hhelp manage the home environment and improve the chances of at-risk pupils getting more out of their education. By intervening earlier and avoiding problems before they get out of hand, we should be able to reduce truancy and problems such as drugs and violence in our schools," Dr Smith said.

In May, the Government announced it would make $10 million available over the next three years to expand a pilot Social Workers in Schools programme that is currently running in the East Coast, Northland, Porirua and Hutt Valley areas.

"Through the expansion, the Government plans to have a total of 67 social workers helping primary and intermediate children from Kaitaia to Invercargill by the end of next year's first school term. Twelve of these social workers are currently working as part of the pilot programme," said the Minister.

The Social Workers in Schools programme is an early intervention scheme designed to identify and address risk factors before they become major problems. It has been developed in partnership with Child, Youth and Family, the Ministries of Education, Health, Maori Development (Te Puni Kokiri), Pacific Island Affairs, and the Health Funding Authority.

"Teachers are not professional social workers. They need to be able to focus on teaching, rather than the social or family problems which may be affecting the child's ability to learn. The social workers will take this pressure off teachers and ensure better co-ordination with other social service agencies," said Dr Smith.

"The social workers will liaise closely with teachers, health workers and other groups to help sort out the problems children bring to school. This will free up teachers to get on with the business of teaching and help children get on with the business of learning," said Mr Sowry.

The social workers are being provided by non-government organisations that are approved under the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act to deliver social services. These providers will be chosen following a formal tender process and will be contracted to Child, Youth and Family.