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More Money in Early Childhood Intervention

Support for More Government Money in Early Childhood Intervention

A Christchurch based support agency for high risk children is confident that more funding for early intervention services will help turn around the appalling youth violence and crime rates in New Zealand.

Chairperson of The Family Help Trust, Sally Thompson, says early intervention is the key, as has been recently highlighted by Family Court Judge Beecroft.

“We absolutely support Judge Beecroft’s comments relating to how important it is to help at risk children as early at possible. This potentially avoids the huge human and social cost of what is currently being seen in our courts. It’s not a new idea,” she says. “The Roper report and more recent research has identified that early childhood intervention is one of the keys to lowering New Zealand’s crime rate and childhood abuse.”

Mrs Thompson says the proposed extra funding is great news for our children and families who are most in need, and demonstrates that the Government is continuing to recognise the importance of early intervention programmes and support.

Family Help Trust’s New Start programme is a unique service that aims to help repeat offenders with young families by breaking the cycle of violence and crime, both of which can lead to difficulties with effective parenting. The programme was developed out of a professional concern that violence and abuse was contributing to problems in the family, including feeding a cycle of crime, which in turn was producing second, third and fourth generation criminals; a key point in the Roper Report.

Sally Thompson says one only has to look at the achievements of the Family Help Trust to see how important it is for the Government to continue, and even increase, funding for early intervention.

“Our New Start service, which began in the early 1990’s, has achieved encouragingly low levels of re-offending, and measurable improvements in areas such as child health, education and family functioning. The service is much the same today, and there is an effectiveness which Family Help Trust credits to the unique elements within the programmes.”

Those unique elements include being a home based service for up to five years, (until a child starts school), and offering the service to pregnant women.

“You can’t get much earlier than that in the intervention and we believe this is one of the keys”, says Sally Thompson.

Social workers at FHT say the long-term relationships developed over a number of years allow a building of trust and respect between those involved.

“The advances and positive choices being made as a result”, she says, “are incredible. We are enabling people to turn their, and their children’s lives around.”

With a growing list of families and children needing help, FHT says it welcomes the Government’s intention to put more money into early intervention programmes.

“Every New Zealand child has the right to grow up in a loving and safe household, free from crime, physical, sexual and mental abuse. As shown by the results of our programmes, social support services need to stop putting ambulances at the bottom of the cliff and erect a barrier at the top because it is only then we can effectively “break the cycle.”

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