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Poor child outcomes costing the nation billions

Every Child Counts Media Statement
14 August 2011

1000 days to get it right for every child: Poor child outcomes costing the nation billions

Every Child Counts* is launching a new campaign to highlight the importance of adequate public and community investment in a child’s early years – the first 1000 days of life – by releasing a report that shows poor outcomes for children are costing the nation at least 3 percent of GDP, or $6bn per annum. These costs are comprised of health, remedial education, justice and reduced productivity.

“It is recognised internationally that the first 1000 days are the most important phase of a child’s development and if we don’t get it right for every child the costs are high. We also want to urge politicians to make good use of the 1000 days they have in each parliamentary term to advance the interests of children,” said Murray Edridge, Chair of Every Child Counts.

“Our report shows that our current low and ineffective public investment in those crucial early days of life result in a heavy economic burden – at last 3 percent of GDP every year. These costs are all preventable.

“Our analysis shows that effective early years investment generates net national economic benefits — as well as improving the lives of at risk children. At this time of economic recession all New Zealanders need to understand that effective, evidence-based, investment in children will directly impact on the society we live in by supporting children to be healthy, educated and productive adults.

“Currently, New Zealand has among the lowest levels of public investment in children in the OECD and this is reflected in the poor health and education outcomes we are seeing.

“One of the biggest challenges facing the nation is our high levels of child poverty. Using a moving line measure of child poverty, 25 percent or 270,000 children are currently living in poverty, with Māori and Pasifika and our youngest children disproportionately affected. Living in poverty means these children miss out on needed goods and services, including adequate housing, nutrition, warm clothing, and healthcare.
“Our work identifies a range of potential solutions to improve child outcomes, including: community-led development; geographic targeting of family support services; improving the health of women of childbearing age; raising the quality and accessibility of childcare and early childhood education, particularly for Māori, Pasifika and low income communities; investing early in children’s lives; creating clear, achievable targets for child well-being outcomes and collecting data to measure progress; and coordinated home visiting and centre-based services.

“The best news is that there is evidence that it ¬ can¬ be done. The Netherlands has comparatively low levels of public investment but they have much better outcomes. We will be doing further work to identify the policies and programmes that work so well for children in The Netherlands.

“The report released today, and its companion report to be released on 2 September, will add to the public debate about the Green Paper on Vulnerable Children and will strengthen the case for effective investment in children’s early years, or their first 1000 days. We urge New Zealanders to carefully consider the big issues and solutions being debated and have their say. Each of us can influence outcomes for children – within our homes, communities and broader society. Our report shows there are clear and measurable economic benefits from getting it right in the first 1000 days and it is the right thing to do,” concluded Mr Edridge.

The two reports commissioned by Every Child Counts:
1000 days to get it right for every child - The effectiveness of public investment in New Zealand children by David Grimmond of Infometrics Ltd
Māori and Pacific Child Poverty by Manuka Henare, Assoc Dean Māori and Pacific Development, Auckland University (to be released in Auckland on 2 September 2011).

* Every Child Counts is a coalition of organisations and individuals working to improve the status and wellbeing of NZ children. It is driven by Barnardos, Plunket, UNICEF NZ, Save the Children and Te Kahui Mana Ririki. www.everychildcounts.org.nz

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