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Children’s Commissioner details future vision

26 October 2006

Children’s Commissioner details future vision for New Zealand Children

Speaking at Barnardos New Zealand’s Annual General Meeting today, Children’s Commissioner, Dr Cindy Kiro, outlined her vision for New Zealand children and a proposal to archive this through the introduction of a systematic approach to monitoring child development and supporting families.

“My vision is that every child in New Zealand is safe, nurtured, educated, healthy, and has hope for the future,” said Dr Kiro.

“While we are moving in the right direction with more resources being dedicated to improving the lives and outlook for our children, more needs to be done.”

“Ensuring that children are safe and nurtured, have the resources to develop to their full potential, and have their views considered in matters that affect them, is a fundamental responsibility of governments and communities. It also makes good sense, as it will lead to a better future for all of us. Investments in childhood are most likely to bring good returns to society as a whole. The best results occur when we intervene early in the child’s life before problems become endemic, and also when the likelihood of success is greater.”

“My proposal is Te Ara Tukutuku Nga Whanaungatanga o Nga Tamariki: Weaving Pathways to Wellbeing which is a 10-year long-term vision for the wellbeing of children in New Zealand. It calls for the establishment of an integrated framework for children and their families. This would provide a systematic approach to monitoring the development of every child and young person in New Zealand through co-ordinated planned assessment at key life stages and supporting families to make sure children have the opportunity to reach their full potential. The assessments would take into account the whole child: their physical, social, educational, emotional, and psychological development.”

“This adopts a life cycle approach, recognising that as children grow there are some key transition times where there is an opportunity to ensure that they have the skills and resources to manage the transition well. Assessment would be at these key life stages. These would include: early childhood focusing on attachment between infant and caregivers and on physical growth and development; primary and secondary school entry focusing on general health, personal identity, school engagement and social wellbeing; and moving to tertiary education or employment and training opportunities and the transition associated with this.”

“The framework would build on current universal health, education and social development services provided to all children and young people in New Zealand and co-ordination between these agencies. Individual plans, owned by the child and held by the family, will be developed in partnership with children and families and each child would have a named primary professional responsible for ensuring the child and family have access to services and advice as needed.”

“The anonymous aggregated data information gathered will also be very useful for educators, health service providers, community planners and child protection services so that they can prepare and plan appropriately for current and future needs.”

“We need to show now that we are serious about building a better future for our children by taking action. Te Ara Tukutuku Nga Whanaungatanga o Nga Tamariki: Weaving Pathways to Wellbeing is a framework on which to build that future. We need to plan and implement this in a systematic way to ensure that no child falls between the cracks. We need to ensure that the services we currently have can work together in a better way. We need to make this investment in resources, structures and systems and in people. We owe it to our children and to our communities.”

Barnardos New Zealand Chief Executive, Murray Edridge, has welcomed the launch of the Children’s Commissioner’s framework. “Dr Kiro has shown real courage and vision in proposing a long term initiative directed at offering every child the best possible start in life.”

“This is totally consistent with Barnardos own vision which talks about valuing childhood and ensuring that each child’s hope and potential are nurtured.”

“Te Ara Tukutuku Nga Whanaungatanga o Nga Tamariki will require an enormous commitment of engagement and resources by the government and community, but what better investment can there be than offering all our children the opportunity to be the best that they can be. This is an investment in the future of New Zealand.”

Mr Edridge called on those of all political persuasions, government agencies, community and corporate sector organisations, and members of the public to support this initiative.

“We need to stop children falling through the gaps. This framework has the potential to start dealing credibly with the real issues facing New Zealand’s children and their families and I hope others will work with us to make it happen.”

For more information see attached and http://www.occ.org.nz

TE ARA TUKUTUKU NGA WHANAUNGATANGA O NGA TAMARIKI: WEAVING PATHWAYS TO WELLBEING – AN INTEGRATED FRAMEWORK FOR CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES
Overview
Te Ara Tukutuku Nga Whanaungatanga o Nga Tamariki provides a systematic approach to monitoring development of every child and young person in New Zealand, and supporting families to make sure children have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

The vision underpinning Te Ara Tukutuku Nga Whanaungatanga o Nga Tamariki is that every child in New Zealand is safe, nurtured, educated, healthy, and has hope for the future.

In practical terms the framework aims to ensure that families are supported within their communities to help children thrive in each of the four domains of physical, emotional, cognitive and social development.

Assessments at key transition or change points will lead to development of individual plans to guide progress through universal services, and to access any additional services that are required.
Rationale
Ensuring that children are safe and nurtured, have the resources to develop to their full potential, and have their views considered in matters that affect them, is a fundamental responsibility of governments and communities.

An ageing population structure, with increasing economic dependency and caregiver ratios, means that the future productivity of every child and young person is important.
Investments in childhood are most likely to bring good returns to society as a whole. Economic modelling shows that the optimum return to investment in human capital occurs in the first years of life. Estimates of the benefit to cost ratio of early childhood intervention for disadvantaged children in the United States are as high 17:1 as by age 40 (i.e. US$17 net benefit to society for every dollar spent.)

Te Ara Tukutuku Nga Whanaungatanga o Nga tamariki will provide accurate information, which is essential to plan well for individual children and families.

The framework will also mean that educators, health service providers, community planners and child protection services have access to anonymous aggregated data so that they can prepare and plan appropriately for current and future needs.
Values for success
Te Ara Tukutuku Nga Whanaungatanga o Nga Tamariki will apply to every child, and will mean that physical, emotional, cognitive and social wellbeing is assessed in a consistent way.

The framework will be child-centred, family focused and strengths-based.
Details of the framework will need to be developed and implemented with the support and in partnership with children and their families.

The framework allows for early identification of additional needs, which may be met within universal services, and early intervention in the life of a problem where necessary.
Planned assessment across domains and sectors
Te Ara Tukutuku Nga Whanaungatanga o Nga Tamariki adopts a life cycle approach, recognising that as children grow and develop there are some key transition times where it will be wise to have an opportunity to ensure that they have the skills and resources to manage the transition well.

Planned assessment at key life stages, including early childhood, primary and secondary school entry, and moving to tertiary education or employment and training opportunities, is a key component of the framework.

The assessment will take into account the whole child; their physical, social, educational, emotional, and psychological development. Within these domains different factors will be more important depending on the age of the child.

In the early years there is would be a focus on attachment between infant and caregivers, and on physical growth and development. School engagement is important between age five and nine, and at entry to secondary school a review of general health, personal identity and social wellbeing are key issues. The final assessment would focus on preparedness for transition from compulsory education to further education, training or employment.
Responsive services
Te Ara Tukutuku Nga Whanaungatanga o Nga Tamariki builds on current universal health, education and social development services provided to all children and young people in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The framework expects that individual plans, owned by the child and held by the family, will be developed in partnership with children and families, using strengths-based approaches in a community development paradigm.

For most children their needs will be met within universal education and health services. Each child would have a named primary professional responsible for ensuring the child and family have access to services and advice as needed.

Where additional needs requiring additional social, educational or health services are identified, either through universal service delivery or through planned assessment, a referral will be made. The primary professional will generally remain with the universal service provider, who has responsibility to liaise with the specialist.

Where multiple needs are identified the support provided to the child and their family will be integrated through a lead professional, who has responsibility to collate information and co-ordinate service delivery. A common record will include entries from all practitioners involved, and will continue to be owned by the child and held by the family.
Where statutory interventions or specialist intervention are required the integrated service delivery will continue, co-ordinated by a practitioner with statutory or professional responsibility to take the lead professional role.

A key strength of an integrated approach is the potential for all professionals to be working to the same frame of reference. This is, of course, in stark contrast to the silo effect often observed between, and even within, agencies who may be engaged with families but do not co-ordinate their work.

For the framework to function effectively, those involved with a child or family will need to have access to information that helps them to make better decisions. A sound information base is essential if we are going to make sure that every child is safe and protected, enjoys the resources to take an active role in society, and understands and enjoys their human rights.

The clear benefits of sharing integrated information are that each and every social service provider has a clear picture of the child’s experiences, strengths and needs, and can more effectively promote that child’s rights, best interests and welfare.
Sharing of information will require trust, shared ownership and commitment, with careful attention to privacy considerations and concerns.
Implementation
Te Ara Tukutuku Nga Whanaungatanga o Nga Tamariki is a 10-year long-term vision for the wellbeing of children in New Zealand.

The framework builds on existing services, supports and capacity. It can be rolled out incrementally, possibly beginning with areas that have high perceived need, or at specific ages, and eventually reaching all children and young people.

Co-located services for children and families are most likely to be accessible, and to foster the community development approach that is a key value of Te Ara Tukutuku Nga Whanaungatanga o Nga Tamariki.

Workforce development will be an important area of investment in the implementation of Te Ara Tukutuku Nga Whanaungatanga o Nga Tamariki. This workforce development will include additional capacity in terms of assessment, data management, and service co-ordination. The principal investment will need to be in developing the capacity of the existing workforce to implement a whole child approach, use a common assessment framework, and deliver integrated services.

ENDS

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