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National Determined To Break Cycle Of Disadvantage

Strengthening families is the key to a kinder and more successful New Zealand, and National, through our team effort by Ministers with Government agencies will help build and restore the confidence in families because this approach delivers results, Prime Minister Jenny Shipley said today.

Speaking in Gisborne this morning, Mrs Shipley reaffirmed National's commitment to the Strengthening Families initiatives, started under her Government. She said the initiatives have been very successful in tackling social problems.

"It recognises the problems then requires all involved to work on finding solutions.

"We will continue to take this Strengthening Families approach for the next three years, focusing on four priority areas:

1. To offer hope for families, work must be available. We will maintain economic policies so that jobs continue to be created. Treasury forecasts show 115,000 new additional jobs being created over the next three years. We see this as a minimum we will deliver for New Zealanders.

2. We will extend the Strengthening Families initiatives so they are in every town and city around New Zealand. Recently we announced that 35,000 children will be helped by social workers in schools as one of our early intervention programmes. We want more of these solutions, and we want communities to tell us what will work best in their town.

3. Sometimes people need prompting and support in order to take the first step to a positive future. We will work with people to break cycles of welfare dependency, and walk alongside families to give them work skills and help them plan their future.

4. Families in trouble need support. Agencies must come to them. We will ensure government agencies are structured and managed so that they continue to support the growing number of organisations in the local and voluntary sectors.

"In 1990 when National took over the reins we faced some urgent priorities if we were to deal with the welfare of New Zealand families. While it's been difficult it has been successful.

"Poor growth in the economy during the late 1980s had unemployment increasing rapidly. In the last three years of the Labour Government the economy did not grow and unemployment shot up from 4% to 11% in 1991 when it peaked.

"As well over this period, numbers on benefits exploded. The number on the unemployment benefit went up fourfold; DPB numbers went up over 70%.

"Our first task was to improve our economic growth so we could reduce the number of people relying on welfare. We also set out to target those most in need so they could get more of our scarce resources.

"In the last three years, we have got the conditions right and have been able to implement the Strengthening Families initiatives. Their aim is to improve life outcomes for at-risk children, including improving health and education, and reducing the incidence of persistent offending, abuse and neglect.

The initiatives involve:
 Coordinating resources locally across the health, education, welfare and justice sectors so families needs are met in a coordinated and more targeted way;
 Focusing on empowering families so they become less dependant in the future, increasing the expectations we have of families at risk and improving their parenting so the cycles of disadvantage are broken.
 Better coordinating services, using initiatives such as WINZ.
"In key areas like child mortality and teen pregnancy, the figures are coming down. Sole parent mums and dads are finding work and for the first time in many years, DPB numbers are dropping.

"National is committed to finishing the job that we started in 1990 – breaking the cycle of disadvantage and giving real choice and hope for New Zealanders who have only previously known the grind of welfarism, and hopelessness. We don't just leave people. We walk beside them and we've made a difference to our country.

"We must not go back – go forward with National," the Prime Minister said.

ENDS

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