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Ministers launch Action Plan to support vulnerable children

Hon Tony Ryall
Minister of Health

Hon Hekia Parata
Minister of Education

Hon Paula Bennett
Minister for Social Development

22 August 2012

Ministers launch Action Plan to support vulnerable children

Ministers Tony Ryall, Hekia Parata and Paula Bennett have today set out how the social sector will deliver the Prime Minister’s challenge for better public services for vulnerable children.

Launching the ‘Supporting Vulnerable Children Result Action Plan’ at Parliament today, Health Minister Tony Ryall said “By doing better, earlier, for vulnerable children, we can set them on a pathway to a more positive future.”

Education Minister Hekia Parata said, “We know that early intervention benefits young children in terms of better health, reduced imprisonment and arrest rates, higher employment and higher earnings later in life.”

The Ministers are targeting four key areas - building on record immunisation rates, reducing the rate of rheumatic fever, increasing participation in quality early childhood education and reducing the number of assaults on children.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said social sector agencies have already begun working closely together on the four key actions.

“They will share information to identify who our vulnerable children are and how we can help them better. We’ll make sure third party providers are the right ones to make a proven difference. And our frontline workers will work together more – there are already a number of joint initiatives in place across health, education and social services that are making a real difference.”

Health Minister Tony Ryall said some of the targets were ambitious and would be a challenge for public services, given the improvements in some areas already.

“But we owe it to children to do all we can to keep them healthy, encourage them early to learn and protect them from harm.”

Mrs Bennett and Mrs Parata said “We know there is a link between early childhood experiences and adult chronic illness, mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, poor educational outcomes and unemployment.

“The human and financial costs of not facing up to these challenges are too high.”

Read ‘Delivering better public services. Supporting vulnerable children result action plan’ at: www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/work-programmes/better-public-services/supporting-vulnerable-children/index.html

Appendix:

Working together for results – Supporting vulnerable children result action report

Increase participation in quality early childhood education

Education Minister Hekia Parata says that participating in quality early childhood education (ECE) has considerable benefits for children.

“We want children to go to primary school confident, able to engage, and eager to learn. That is why our plan for education has a target of 98 per cent participation in early childhood education in 2016,” Ms Parata says.

“We are investing $1.3 billion in ECE, including $47.9 million in equity funding which supports priority learners and communities. This will assist participation in ECE by vulnerable children who are currently not receiving sufficient support to succeed in education.’’

“To increase participation and reach our 98% target in 2016 we will identify children who are not participating in ECE through improved information collection and information sharing across agencies.

“We will work with communities, ECE providers and other groups to engage with us to support ECE participation and ensure families, whanau and aiga will know about the benefits of ECE, what is available, and how to enrol their children.”

Increase immunisation rates

“One of the best things we can do for children is to have them fully immunised from the common childhood diseases like whooping cough and measles,” Health Minister Tony Ryall said.

‘We now have record immunisation rates for two year olds – 93 per cent fully immunised. But younger babies are most vulnerable and now we’re increasing that target to 95 per cent of eight-month-olds fully immunised with the scheduled vaccinations by 2014,” he said.

“We will support every pregnant woman to have a named GP before birth and every baby is registered with a GP at birth. We will ensure families are promptly reminded of immunisation dates and better link up two family services, WellChild/Tamariki Ora and Family Start.

Reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever

“Rheumatic fever can develop into life threatening heart disease but this third world disease is largely preventable,” Mr Ryall said.

“We’re spending $24 million to reduce the incidence rate of rheumatic fever by two thirds to 1.4 cases per 100,000 by 2017.

“We’re doing that by providing throat swabbing and treatment to children at high risk, raising awareness and knowledge of this disease, and working across government agencies to address risk factors like housing conditions and hygiene in schools.”

Reduce the number of assaults on children

“Since 2008 this Government has implemented a number of initiatives such as the ‘Education Assist’ package and Child Protection Alert System to help reduce abhorrent acts of violence against children,” said Social Development Minister Paula Bennett.

“The Public Services target formalises our on-going commitment to reducing these violent assaults and acknowledges that more needs to be done to better protect children and give them the start in life they deserve” she said.

“The Green Paper was the beginning of this process and the White Paper to be released in October will mark a significant advancement in the protection of our children, providing detailed far reaching solutions to help achieve this ambitious goal.

Other child protection work underway includes the introduction of social workers in all hospitals and 1-3 decile schools, and changes to the Family Start programme to increase the focus on abuse detection and prevention.”

ENDS

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