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Consultation Boosts Understanding Of NZ Children

September 7 2001 Media Statement

Consultation Boosts Understanding Of New Zealand Children

New Zealand children made more than 3500 individual submissions to a nationwide consultation on the development of an Agenda for Children.

More than 300 group submissions were also received, and many came in the form of letters, drawings, posters, essays and videos.

The majority of individual submissions were received on special response sheets prepared as part of a children's discussion pack by the Ministry of Social Policy.

Jointly led by Social Services Minister Steve Maharey and Youth Affairs Minister Laila Harré, the consultation took place between April and June.

Meetings were held to consult face-to-face with children, including 22 groups of children involved with IHC, three groups involved with CCS, 50 young people living in four Child Youth and Family residences, five groups focusing on Maori young people, two Pacific youth groups and 41 separate meetings at 17 different schools around the country.

Ten consultation meetings were held for adults, who made 450 submissions.

Youth Affairs Minister Laila Harré says the response from children was fantastic.

"By and large children I spoke to focused on shortcomings in their immediate environment, on things like the lack of parks or safe and interesting things to do after school or in their local communities.

"Another thing these discussion showed up is that children are very aware of what's going on in mum and dad's lives and the impact this has on the family.

"For example, some children said they really wished mum or dad could take a day off to spend with them when they were sick. But they understood the financial pressure taking a day off work created."

When children and young people were asked what they liked about their lives the most common responses were that children liked "the freedom of not having to support themselves or bear responsibility in the way that adults do; and being able to have fun, play sport and enjoy their lives.

Other positive things that were mentioned frequently were living in a country that is relatively safe; the clean green spaces of New Zealand; and access to a good education.

The things most mentioned when children were asked what they most disliked were the limitations of age, including not being allowed to drive, buy alcohol, go to some places, or even to have a firearms license and being told what to do.

Other issues that concerned children and young people were:

 not being listened to or taken seriously;
 bullying;
 not being able to make their own decisions;
 having to go to school;
 being told off;
 having to do chores; and
 not having enough for me to do.

Laila Harré says by far the most frequently mentioned suggestion for improving children's lives was to provide more things for children to do.

Other children wanted improvements to the school and education system; adults to address crime and the abuse of children and they wanted to be treated with more respect, trusted, given more responsibility, listened to and supported.

"Children affirmed that friends, education, family, a safe environment and good health are important in their lives. My own discussion with kids revealed that while parents were particularly valued, sibling relationships were sometimes problematic," Laila Harré said.

"It's also interesting that there were different perceptions between children and young people of different ages of the negatives associated with being young."

For example, for five to 12 year olds the big one was getting told what to do and fear of bullying and for 13-17 year olds it was not being taken seriously or listened to. Young people also wrote about peer pressure, problems created by drug and alcohol use, and the low rate of youth wages.

Boys wanted more sports, recreation and entertainment opportunities above all else. Girls focused on suggestions for improvement in the relationships between young people and adults – more trust of young people, more responsibility and freedom, and being listened to more.

Maori children and young people shared the views expressed by submissions overall but had particular concerns about stereotyping, crime and violence and economic disadvantage. Unlike the overall submissions, Maori mentioned physical discipline as one of the top ten negative aspects of being a child.

Pacific young people acknowledged the importance of family support but were also particularly concerned about child abuse, bullying and use of physical discipline. They also reported experiencing stereotyping, and were eager to have more support services for young people.

Children and young people with disabilities were concerned about stereotyping, along with lack of understanding of their disabilities and under-resourcing of their needs. Isn't it interesting that the children from all the marginalised groups were aware of society's negative perceptions of them.

Laila Harré said the government's next steps are to take on board what children are saying and to produce and Agenda for Children that is relevant to New Zealand now.


Ends

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