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PI, Maori Children Missing Out On Health Benefits

Thursday 3 July 2003
Pacific and Maori children missing out on health benefits

Estimated value almost $9 million a year The families of Maori and Pacific children with high health needs are missing out on crucial health benefits worth almost $9 million each year, according to data collected by the Wellington-based Downtown Community Ministry.

In a paper to be presented to the Public Health Association conference in Ngaruawahia today, the Ministry says its latest analysis of Work and Income data shows 7.5 percent of Pakeha children of beneficiary households receive the Disability Allowance compared to 3.2 percent of Maori children and 1.9 percent of Pacific children of beneficiary households.

Ministry director Kevin Hackwell says the data shows something is very wrong with the interface between the health and welfare sectors.

"We conservatively estimate that 6,250 Maori and 2,500 Pacific children of beneficiary households are missing out on the Disability Allowance and may therefore not be having their primary health care needs met. These numbers represent nearly two and a half times the present levels of Disability Allowance uptake by Maori and Pacific children."

Mr Hackwell says the Ministry is disturbed to find that even when Maori and Pacific beneficiary families are lucky enough to get a Disability Allowance, the value of the allowance is only two thirds of what Pakeha children get.

"We have estimated that Maori children of beneficiary households are missing out on at least $6.5 million worth of health related assistance each year. For Pacific children of beneficiary households the figure is at least $2.4 million."

All of these figures are conservative because they make an assumption that all eligible Pakeha children of beneficiary households are receiving their correct entitlement to Disability Allowance, Mr Hackwell says. The figures also do not include any children from non-beneficiary, low-income households who are eligible for the Disability Allowance.

"We know that there is a huge problem with the health status of Maori and Pacific children significantly lagging behind that of Pakeha children, Mr Hackwell says. This failure of the welfare and health sectors to assist those most in need may go some way to explaining why the problem exists, he says.

Mr Hackwell says there was a dramatic improvement in rates of Special Benefits uptake when Work and Income developed best practice standards for access to the Special Benefit. These improvements came about after a multi-agency working group, including beneficiary advocates, identified ways to improve practice.

The Downtown Ministry is calling for a similar multi-agency working group to be established to look at uptake of the Disability Allowance. That way the families of children with high health and disability needs will have the necessary financial support to assist with the extra costs involved in their children's on-going care, Mr Hackwell says.

Removing the cost barrier to accessing primary health care is another part of the solution to improve the health status of Maori and Pacific children and to reduce the high rates of avoidable hospitalisation, Mr Hackwell says.


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