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May 4 2006 - Celebrating Families

May 4 2006 - Celebrating Families

Judith Collins Family and Welfare Spokesperson 4 May 2006

Working Hard for Families

Keep Plunket And Parents Connected

It seems PlunketLine has been inundated with even more calls than I reported last week. PlunketLine actually received 135,000 calls per annum and answered 76,000. For an organisation funded to receive and answer between 58,000 to 70,000 calls annually it certainly seems that Plunket went the extra mile. I don't understand how Helen Clark can justify her government's decision to drop PlunketLine.

What is clear is that Plunket has been answering A LOT more calls than what government funding and resources required of them. It really does not make sense that Helen Clark PROMISED to fund PlunketLine. Prior to the 1999 election, Miss Clark was definitely very supportive of PlunketLine. Now she's changed her mind. The number of calls received indicate the huge demand for this service. If any of you haven't yet signed the petition please visit our website at www.national.org.nz and click under health policies and then media releases, or go direct to Plunket www.plunket.org.nz

Warning Signs For Cyf & Msd Merger

Issues facing the most vulnerable members of our society seem to be low on the governments 'to do' list, that is if they want to do anything at all. Like the axing of PlunketLine, the proposed merger between Child Youth and Family and the Ministry of Social Development is another example of Labour neglecting the needs of our young. Findings from two State Services Commission Reports have finally been released. The first from December last year stated the move will NOT improve conditions for at-risk young people.

The report says challenges faced by CYF would not be easily resolved in a larger organisation. "We do not think they would be more easily resolved and we therefore see no reason why a merger of CYFS with MSD would necessarily assist." It's now obvious that Labour used the merger to conceal CYFs poor performance and 'claim' they were doing something to deal with the situation. Officials have predicted that the merger will cause shakiness at MSD, making the Chief Executive's job very difficult. The last thing we need is problems in MSD areas such as Work and Income and the Office for Disability Issues. The government needs to take responsibility for these very serious issues and talk openly about the effects the merger will have on New Zealand's most vulnerable children.

Strangely, one month later, in January, the Commission had completely changed its mind. I want to know why? Senior staff at CYF and MSD were only told of the merger in January. There wasn't time for proper consultation as to its ramifications. All talk of better outcomes for children is a farce. Today, the Minister of State Services, Annette King, told Parliament that she did not know why the Commission had changed its tune.

Frankly, if she doesn't know, why doesn't she? The perception of independence of the Commission is under threat if there are no reasons given for such an about face. Today, the Minister did the Commission no favours in that regard.

Commission Not Working For Families

The National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ) remains unconvinced by the Families Commission acceptance of reassurances from the Ministry of Health in respect to funding being withdrawn from PlunketLine in favour of the multi-national drug company McKesson's Healthline service.

The Council has said "The Families Commission's response demonstrates its full comprehension of the Ministry of Health requirements but they have not consulted with the other party in this debate - Plunket. The Council considers that the Commission has not practiced their acknowledged role of ensuring the families' voice is heard at all levels."

"If the Commission is only capable of seeking government information, then families will be left asking why it exists - could the Commission's work not be undertaken by existing government agencies, such as the Child, Youth and Family department of the Ministry of Social Development?"

"The public expectation of the Commission is that they will go into bat for families. Resumption of funding at an increased level to meet the increasing demand for the PlunketLine service is what the public wants," said Christine Low. "It is vital to recognise that families use PlunketLine for their WellChild advice, which acknowledges that families are included in the wellbeing of all children. The high percentage of calls (86%) resolved without medical intervention provides a gauge of the nature of health and parenting questions responded to by PlunketLine. To simplify this service by suggesting that "clinical" health advice will meet the needs of families is completely off the mark."

"Instead of the Commission waiting for the figures from the PlunketLine petition to provide a measure of public sentiment, NCWNZ challenges the Families Commission to use its online public consultation portal ("The Couch" http://www.thecouch.org.nz) to discover which body families would like to see offering the WellChild service."

"At this stage, the NCWNZ concern is that the Families Commission consultation service will be able to manage the volume of new subscribers they can expect to receive if the Commission accepts our challenge," concluded Christine Low, National President.

I couldn't have put it better myself. The Families Commission has yet again run to the rescue of the government. If the Commission wants any credibility of being an independent advocate for families, it has chosen an unusual way to demonstrate its so called independence.


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