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Five To Thrive Campaigners Call For Government To Prioritise Maternal Mental Health Support Ahead Of Budget 2021

A month out from the release of Budget 2021, the joint initiative from Save the Children New Zealand, Barnardos, Te Kahui Mana Ririki, and Whānau Āwhina Plunket is calling for the Government to urgently address maternal mental health and wellbeing.

“We know that for our children to thrive, our mothers need to thrive,” Save the Children Chief Executive Heidi Coetzee says.

“While we’ve seen some positive announcements around mental health in the past few months, there has been very little targeted investment for maternal mental health. Every day babies are being born into a strained maternity system which leaves new parents struggling without the support they need. Budget 2021 presents a crucial opportunity to ensure we have a holistic, sustainable and equitable system of support in place for new parents.”

Launched last year prior to the 2020 election, the Five to Thrive initiative identified five issues where urgent change is needed for children: realising the potential of whānau Māori and reducing inequities; investing in children’s early years; an affordable and healthy home for every child; lifting children and their whānau out of poverty; and mental health support for every child and new parent.

Five to Thrive now wants to see the Government to commit to real change in these five areas through Budget 2021.

Whānau Āwhina Plunket CEO Amanda Malu says that while we know 10-15% of mothers are affected by maternal mental health issues, this is likely just the tip of the iceberg.

“We’re in homes and talking to people on PlunketLine every day, hearing more and more people asking for maternal mental health support, so clearly there is a growing issue but few support services being funded. Budget 2021 gives an opportunity to focus on priorities for the nation and for the future of our country, it’s vital we get greater support for our mothers.”

The group is also calling for greater visibility around how the Government plans to address inequities for whānau Māori and Pasifika in the maternity system across the country and not just in main centres.

Barnardos Chief Executive Mike Munnelly says that mental health and wellbeing support for new parents must be holistic and responsive to the needs of individual whānau.

“For so many of our most vulnerable, the daily struggles they are facing are closely connected. Often we find that the immediate support that new mothers need is to access safe and affordable accommodation as well as access to counselling for those who need it. Mental health and wellbeing support for new parents means support for all of a family’s needs and we hope to see that reflected in Budget 2021.”

The Five to Thrive website – – gives the public more information about each issue and the reality facing Aotearoa’s tamariki and their whānau.


  • The promise of Te Tiriti o Waitangi has not yet been delivered, with statistics across education, health, justice and housing showing inequitabale outcomes for Māori. Almost one in five (19%) of Māori tamariki live in material hardship – compared to one in ten Pakeha children.
  • Almost 20% of children in New Zealand live in poverty after housing costs. More than 50,000 families living in poverty are working families.
  • Around 30,000 children are hospitalised every year in New Zealand from preventable diseases due to poor housing.
  • The housing wait list for emergency housing continues to grow and is now at a record high of 22,521 as families are unable to afford high market rental prices.
  • The first 1000 days in a child's life are critical, 80% of brain development happens during this time, impacting the rest of their lives.
  • New Zealand children have the worst mental wellbeing rate and second highest rate of youth suicide among high-income countries. The most recent Youth2000 survey published in 2020 confirms worsening emotional and mental wellbeing among New Zealand teens in the last seven years, based on their direct feedback. Maternal suicide is the leading cause of maternal deaths in Aotearoa, with 30 deaths between 2006-2018.


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