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Health Select Committee: Govt Must Do More for Children

29 April 2014

Health Select Committee Challenges Government to do More for Children

UNICEF NZ welcomes the Health Select Committee decision to respond to the Government’s response to the Inquiry into improving child health outcomes and preventing child abuse with a focus from preconception until three years of age, which was tabled in Parliament in November 2013. The response from the Health Select Committee is an example of the tenacious advocacy needed to advance the wellbeing of children and achieve equitable investment in children.

“The Health Select Committee has taken the unusual move of responding to the Government response due to rising concerns that only some of the recommendations have been accepted and that the Government’s commitment to progress for children is somewhat ambiguous. The response issued by the Select Committee today is effectively a challenge to the Government to reconsider its position. Given that many children fail to reach their full potential, it is clear there is an urgent need for comprehensive policies that invest equitably in children and families. The Committee’s inquiry strongly made that case,” said UNICEF NZ National Advocacy Manager, Deborah Morris-Travers.

“The inquiry was initiated because of concerns that a significant proportion of children experience preventable child abuse, neglect, poor achievement, morbidity and mortality. These are concerns that UNICEF NZ shares with the Health Select Committee and has raised with successive Governments. Every child has the right to health, education, protection and participation but New Zealand has a long way to go before all children enjoy these rights. This is borne out in statistics and in the calls for action that come directly from children themselves.”

When the Committee released its report in November 2013, UNICEF NZ was pleased that the report had cross-party support and drew on the evidence supporting early investment in children to identify recommendations that would break cycles of vast disparity, support parents and achieve equity for children. UNICEF NZ further called on the Government to use the report to inform Budget 2014.

“As the Committee correctly points out, the recommendations ‘constitute a package.’ For this reason, the Government decision to accept some of them, partially accept others, and either ‘note’ or ‘not accept’ the rest runs the risk of yet more haphazard decision-making on policy for children. We do note, however, the Committee’s assumption that because the first overarching recommendation* has been accepted, the Government will put the bulk of the report into action within, or close to, the timeframes the Committee recommended. We hope that this is the case.

“UNICEF NZ encourages the Government to accept the response from the Select Committee released today as a challenge to do much more because widespread evidence clearly shows that a brighter future starts with all of our children,” said Ms Morris-Travers.

*The first major recommendation read:

“We strongly recommend that the Ministry of Health work with all relevant parties and other key ministries to establish a programme with timelines for implementing our recommendations, especially our key recommendations. We understand that the recommendations involving investment in the very early lives of children may take time, but we wish to see the Government commit itself to optimal and equitable investment in this area in the medium to long term.”

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org.nz

Follow UNICEF NZ on Twitter and Facebook


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