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Parent information line given last minute reprieve

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Parent information line given last minute reprieve

A national free 0800 information and help line for parents has been given a last minute reprieve, and will continue for another year, according to the Chair of the Education and Science Select Committee, Dr. Liz Gordon (Alliance).

Dr. Gordon said the Committee invited Nicky Darlow, of the Wellington Community Law Centre, to talk about the pilot hotline project after a report on its work was released publicly.

“The report demonstrated, among other things, that children with special needs were being suspended from schools in worryingly large numbers, and that parents were often being charged fees for services which were supposed to be offered free.

“It was absolutely clear that the information line was plugging a big gap in the information available to parents. Moreover it was cheap, staffed by volunteer law students from Victoria University”.

Dr. Gordon said that while money for parent advocacy had been approved in the budget, there was not enough to provide a national free phone service staffed by full time experts.

“So, even if it had to continue as a service run largely by volunteers, I was determined it must not be lost”.

She said that, apart from a letter written by the select committee to the Minister, she had personally been following the matter up.

“I began to get desperate this week, with the deadline approaching. I bailed the Commissioner for Children up at a Youth Parliament reception and asked him to take on the service, even if it remained voluntary at present. I’ve made a number of calls to the Minister’s office, too.

“And now the service is saved. There are times when it is really good to be in government and today is one of them”.

Liz Gordon said that the goal now was to publicise the service. “The Infoline was put together on a shoestring. Only 3000 pamphlets were every produced. Now, we need to make sure that every parent in need knows where to turn”.

ENDS

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