Budget Investments for Children Warmly Welcomed
UNICEF NZ - Budget Investments for Children Warmly Welcomed
At first glance, today’s Budget announcement of a $500m support package for families and children is a welcome new investment in our youngest citizens and signals growing political acceptance of the need to do more to support families with young children.
Deborah Morris-Travers, National Advocacy Manager at UNICEF New Zealand, said, “The current 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.
“All New Zealanders benefit when children are healthy, educated and nurtured to develop to their full potential. Parents need support to achieve this. Investing in family incomes, through extended paid parental leave and increased parental tax credits, improves families’ abilities to meet the needs of babies and young children.
“UNICEF NZ has been campaigning for extended paid parental leave as we believe the best investments Governments can make are those that enable parents to build secure attachments with their babies, and allow mums to breastfeed, through time spent together in the early weeks and months. Expanding the eligibility criteria is also crucial, with only around 40% of caregivers eligible at the moment.
“Investments in healthcare, housing and education also deliver long-term dividends and we are particularly pleased to see children up to 13 years of age receiving free GP visits and prescriptions, another measure that we have long advocated for. We know that low-income families often experience chronic illness, with the cost of prescriptions and GP visits a barrier to good health.
“Providing early childhood education is also essential for all our kids, particularly those that are living in deprived homes. Extra funding for the Reading Together programme is also a crucial important step in improving our children’s literacy and educational outcomes.
“While the announcements today do not address all of the issues impacting on child wellbeing, they demonstrate Government interest in doing more to improve life for children and responding to the pressures on families and we applaud that.
“It’s important for all New Zealanders to understand that Government has a central role to play in creating the conditions that enable families and communities to thrive. Given current child health statistics, it is clear that we need continued investment in coordinated policies for children, supported by evaluation and monitoring of impact.
“At the moment, our society and economy are carrying the heavy burden of high poverty rates and child maltreatment. UNICEF NZ encourages the Government and all political parties to commit to a comprehensive plan to address child poverty, with targets, measurement and clear accountability so that all children’s right to a decent quality of life is realised,” concluded Ms Morris-Travers.