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Giving children the best possible start in life

18 September 2006

Early Years – giving children the best possible start in life

A new package of early intervention services aimed at giving children the best possible start in life is receiving over $7 million of government funding, Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope announced today.

The Early Years package will establish seven Early Years Service Hubs, provide eight service co-ordinators dedicated to helping teenage parents and their children, extend the Early Start and Family Start programmes, and trial a Canadian programme, Roots of Empathy.

“We know that effective, early interventions for vulnerable families and their children have positive, long-term, wide-ranging effects,” said Mr Benson-Pope.

“They are key to improving children’s health and education, they reduce the likelihood of adult offending or long-term unemployment, and they help reduce family abuse or neglect.

“We also know from talking with communities that services for families need to be better co-ordinated, and we need to help vulnerable families access and stay connected with the support that is available.

“This package helps to address these issues. It builds on existing services, like Well Child, Early Childhood Education, and SKIP, and makes them more effective by improving their co-ordination and helping families to access them.

“It's a key part of our focus on early intervention to make sure children and their family or whanau have the support they need, and don’t fall through the cracks.”

The seven Early Years Service Hubs will be established in high-need areas, providing a central point for families to access a range of services, from ante natal care through to parenting support and education. The Early Years worker attached to each hub will help reach families and keep them connected to core services.

Teenage Parent Service Co-ordinators will be introduced in areas with high rates or numbers of teenage births.

“Teenage parents and their children are a high-risk group that benefit from early interventions tailored to their needs,” Mr Benson-Pope said.

“The eight teenage parent service co-ordinators will work with young people to identify their needs, and those of their children, and put them in touch with groups and agencies who can support them.”
The Early Years package also increases Government’s investment in the successful Early Start and Family Start programmes, home-based services that strengthen and support vulnerable families through intensive case management.

Roots of Empathy will be trialled in up to ten New Zealand schools. This programme, already operating in Canada, has been found to reduce violence and improve empathy among children.

Roots of Empathy involves a parent bringing their baby into the classroom so children can learn about a baby's developmental stages, needs, and communication. Seeing the interaction between parent and baby helps children learn to understand others’ feelings, put names to those feelings, and how to resolve problems.

Today's announcement was the first of a series for families this week. Tomorrow, the Minister will join Education Minister Steve Maharey to launch the Action Plan for young people in Counties-Manukau, and on Thursday he will give details of the government's work to identify and support vulnerable families.


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