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Serious health issues addressed for children in care

Hon Paula Bennett
Minister for Social Development

Associate Minister of Housing

12 March 2013 Media Statement

Serious health issues addressed for children in care

The $43.7 million initiative to provide Gateway Assessments for children in care is making a difference says Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

This life-changing government initiative to address health, mental health and educational needs in children in care is picking up serious health issues.

“Children are in State care because they’ve suffered serious abuse or neglect which can have a devastating effect on their health and development.”

“This Government is so determined these children get the services they need and deserve, we’ve gone ahead and direct-purchased health and educational services through the Ministry of Social Development,” says Mrs Bennett.

Five children have received heart surgery following Gateway Assessments. A teenager was diagnosed with epilepsy and is getting treatment. A child with a club foot had orthopaedic surgery and was able to walk 12 months later.

A baby having feeding problems was found to have tongue tie; surgery the following day rectified the problem and the baby is now thriving. Another baby is in treatment after the discovery of a major illness and an enlarged kidney.

“These are just a few examples of how this Government’s investment in our most vulnerable children is making a difference,” says Mrs Bennett.

“Children in care have it tough enough before you add developmental delay, mental health and health problems to a toxic background of abuse and neglect – we’re doing something tangible to improve those odds.”

Gateway Assessments most frequent health needs identified:
• 51% emotional, behavioural or mental health needs.
• 26% dental issues
• 15% developmental delay
• 14% skin problems
• 13% speech and language problems

Almost 1,700 children in care have now been assessed, with an average of more than 3 needs per child picked up including educational delays.

Early data from teachers is showing us they found 25% of children have literacy problems, 24% have numeracy problems,19% comprehension issues and 11% have a higher than average level of school absence.

Assessments have also picked up hearing problems, eyesight issues, infections, bone problems, asthma, allergies and heart murmurs.

“These issues are now all being addressed, which shows why this is such a valuable investment for children who’ve had a rough start to life.”

“Without decent services these children grow up disadvantaged and at greater risk,” says Ms Bennett.

“Most children assessed are found to be behind their peers in reading, maths and comprehension so we’re providing extra teacher aides to help them.”

The National Government was the first to introduce a comprehensive assessment for children in care.

There are more than 4,000 children in care at any one time and more than 2,000 children go into care every year – all are eligible for this support.

The Children in Care package also includes:
• Early Childhood Education (ECE) for children in care
• Primary mental health services

Around 230 children in care are receiving ECE as a result of this initiative.

Every District Health Board is now implementing the Gateway Assessments. Northland DHB was the first to get underway and has achieved outstanding results to date. Hawkes Bay DHB is the last to come on board.

ENDS

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