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Bennett: Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Conference

Paula Bennett

5 MARCH, 2014

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Conference

Introduction

E nga mana, e nga reo, e te iwi o te motu, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa

Acknowledgments

• Diane Vivian, Chair and Founder

• Geoff Lawson, CEO

• The GRG Board

• GRG Members

Introduction

It’s great to be with all of you today, at what is the beginning of a very exciting year ahead.

It’s going to be a pretty significant one for me personally.

There’s the small matter of a certain election later on this year, but it’s not just that.

And it’s not just the Vulnerable Children Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, and when passed will dramatically change the landscape for vulnerable children - for the better.

This is the first year of my new grandson’s life and I intend to make all possible time to be with him, and my family.

That’s my number one goal this year.

He’s already proving to be a useful wee thing - just the other day we found my 6 year old granddaughter using his fingers and toes for her maths homework, because she had run out of her own!

So another goal of mine is to make sure my granddaughter finds a better way to count, because her little brother’s fingers and toes won’t be there in the classroom when she needs them!

These early days and months are so important, and I know how lucky he is to be surrounded by a family who only want the absolute best for him.

But at the same time, I know there are far too many of our children missing out on the love and warmth they should be getting.

Parents that should nurture and care for their children instead abuse and neglect them, leaving it to grandparents like you to step in and pick up the shattered pieces.

Often, you’re the only difference between children growing up with their family, or growing up in state care.

Support for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Thanks to the hard, tireless work of Diane and the Board, and you as members, this is an organisation going strong.

There are around 12,400 children cared for by extended families members, including around 5,500 grandparents belonging to this organisation.

I know that all of you share the same vision as me for our vulnerable children - to better protect them, to nurture and care for them, to see them thrive.

You wouldn’t be here otherwise, so thank you for the invaluable work you do.

The support you provide is invaluable, and the Government is committed to working alongside you, with funding in particular from MSD through CYF and FACS.

And it’s not just about the money - some of you may know that CYF’s Northern Regional Office has adopted Grandparents Raising Grandparents as its ‘charity to support’, and for the last 3 years staff have provided Christmas presents for children based on GRG request.

As a Government, we are firmly committed to better protecting vulnerable children, and have invested hundreds of millions in initiatives that both directly and indirectly support them.

This includes the $35 million over 4 years we announced last Budget for extended family raising children.

Child Protection Measures led by National

• Introduced the Children’s Action Plan with more than 30 initiatives to tackle the complex issues that lead to children being vulnerable

• Introduced Children’s Action Plan legislation including new accountabilities for the heads of government departments, child protection policies, screening and vetting of the children’s workforce, and new Guardianship Orders.

• Introduced new Children’s Teams in Whangarei and Rotorua - more to come this year.

• Expanded breakfast in schools programme to all schools that want and need it

• Introduced a $43m package for more Gateway health and education assessments, mental health and services for children in state care and support for carers - 3,105 assessments since July 2012.

• Boosted frontline social workers

• Ensured Social Workers in Schools now cover all decile 1-3 schools - 142,000 now children have access

• Established Social Workers in Hospitals, now covering all DHBs

• Gave extra support to parents and caregivers through parenting programmes, and fully funding the 24-hour Plunketline.

• Helped parents offer children in care a safe, permanent home through “Home for Life

• Established seven supported homes for teen parents around NZ

• Funded early intervention programmes and campaigns including the Never Shake a Baby campaign

• Overhauled the Family Start programme, restoring the focus to protecting children from abuse

• Introduced new child protection working agreements with CYF and other agencies including; Police, Health and Education

• Introduced tougher sentences for crimes against children and made household members accountable for failing to report abuse.

• And, introduced new extra payments for grandparents raising grandchildren, other family and non-family carers of children

Extra support for grandparents and extended carers

As you can see, we’re right into the Action phase of the Children’s Action Plan.

We’re putting in the initiatives we began talking about back when the Green Paper was released in 2011.

We made a commitment to provide you with extra support to best meet your needs and the needs of the children you care for.

As you know we committed $35 million at the Budget last year, and sought the expert advice of the Ministerial Reference Group.

Once again - thank you so much for your involvement in this group - your advice was invaluable and your voice an integral part of the process.

I’m really pleased with how this extra support for extended family carers has been realised.

I know the options we ended up will make a real difference.

School and Year Start-Up Year Payment, Establishment Fund and Extraordinary Care fund

The Start of Year payment has so far assisted almost 6,400 carers, around 73% of all those eligible.

There have been over 1,500 payments granted in the Auckland region, over 750 in the Bay of Plenty, and around 500 in the East Coast, Canterbury, and the Southern region.

All up payments totalled just over $3 million.

Grandparents Raising Grandchild played a key role in getting the word out to members by promoting the new payments on your Facebook page and newsletter.

MSD also sent a letter to all OB/UCB clients about how to apply - that was 8,786 carers looking after 12,393 children.

Where there are financial pressures, this payment offers children being cared for by extended family something very important.

With the assistance to buy essentials like school uniforms and stationery, they’re able to start school on an equal footing with every other child.

They’re able to get on and concentrate on a big year of learning ahead without the stress and anxiety that comes with not having the same things as their friends.

The same goes with the Establishment Grant - helping children get established into their new home when they first come into an extended family member’s care.

We know you do a fantastic job, especially when funds are tight and the pressures of raising children for the ‘second time around,’ so we’re committed to supporting you.

The Extraordinary Care Fund is something I’m really excited about, and I’m looking forward to seeing the difference it makes once it’s underway.

As most of you will know, it will be a discretionary fund of up to $2,000 available from July this year, and is designed to help children facing significant obstacles in their lives.

It doesn’t cover direct medical costs, because we don’t want to double up with the support provided by other agencies and funds, but it does recognise children showing special promise in sports, music or other activities who are capable of achieving at the highest level, if we can give them a boost.

Some may not have access to the equipment, lessons or coaching that can help them become the best they can be - so any support we can provide is well worth it.

The Fund is still in the ‘design phase’, and there will be many more details to come as we get closer to applications opening in July - watch this space!

Conclusion

Once again thank you for the invaluable work you do.

We’ve worked together on some pretty significant milestones over the last few years, and I place a huge amount of value in your voice, and in your role supporting vulnerable children.

I think the new funds we’ve come up with together have the potential to make a huge amount of difference for our children.

I hope you have a fantastic conference this year, thank you again for inviting me to speak with you.

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