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Budget Needs to Focus on Children and Families

12 May 2014

Budget Needs to Focus on Children and Families

The Government’s Budget this Thursday (15 May) must prioritise investment in the youngest children and families living on very low incomes, to help protect the health and wellbeing of our most vulnerable citizens and reduce the impact on our economy resulting from poor child outcomes.

Deborah Morris-Travers, National Advocacy Manager at UNICEF NZ, said, “Government has an important role to play in helping create the conditions that enable families and communities to provide what children need.

“This is particularly important when babies and children are young, and when families are struggling to provide the basics like warm housing, nutritious food, educational opportunities and healthcare.

“The recent Health Select Committee report on preventing child abuse and improving the wellbeing of children pointed to the overwhelming evidence for supporting coordinated policy and investment in children.

“UNICEF NZ welcomes pre-Budget announcements aimed at improving health and education for children and young people, including cochlear implants for children with hearing loss, additional screening for rheumatic fever, nit-busting, and apprenticeships. These are all welcome initiatives that will assist children and young people but there are other fundamental areas requiring investment, too.”

Ms Morris Travers added, “The combined annual cost of poverty and child maltreatment is $8-$10 billion. Therefore, investment that improves the income and functioning of families will deliver social and economic dividends. Examples of the investments that would improve life for children and their families include:

• Additional assistance for families when new babies are born, such as extending paid parental leave and a universal baby bonus or child payment
• Increasing incomes for those on benefits and low wages
• Improving access to health services and prescriptions for all children
• Building more affordable housing, extending the Warm Up NZ insulation scheme and the Warrant-of-Fitness for housing
• Increasing accessibility of social service provision through initiatives such as community hubs
• Improving the literacy and education of young people and parents so that children are read to and are school-ready
• Supporting community-led development that builds connected, healthy neighbourhoods, and
• Continuing to improve participation in quality early childhood education

“UNICEF NZ recognises that the Government has been striving to balance the budget during the Global Financial Crisis and has borrowed to retain current social assistance. However, investment in children delivers a significant return and, in the face of high rates of poverty, disparities and infectious disease, there is a case for additional investment in children. Children must be the priority for any reprioritised spending and any new investment.

“In addition to the clear social and economic benefits of improving child health and education, New Zealand’s obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child require the Government to ensure that every child has a quality of life that supports the physical, mental, emotional and social development of the child, including through provision of income support. Failing our children is costly, especially when our aging society will depend on them in the future,” concluded Ms Morris-Travers.

About UNICEF
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

ENDS

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