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Parents of vulnerable children must go to front of queue

For immediate release:

7 February 2012

Parents of vulnerable children must go to front of queue says Children’s Commissioner

Parents and carers of vulnerable children should get priority over other adults when seeking services such as drug and alcohol counselling, elective surgery and housing, Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills said today.

“The services that really matter to vulnerable children are often the ones accessed by their parents – children are invisible when an adult’s needs are considered. In order to look after children better we need to put their parents first.

“The reality is we have high demand for services and less money to go around, so we have to prioritise who gets what and when. Anyone who is unwell can have a worse outcome if they have to wait for a service, but delayed treatment for parents can also impact on their children.

“I believe parents and carers of vulnerable children must go to the front of the queue.

“At the moment not enough consideration is given to the impact on a child of having a parent with an issue like drug or alcohol addiction. Or the impact of waiting months in cramped conditions for a suitable house to become available. The impacts can be significant and long-lasting,” he said.

“It might mean that others have to wait longer for drug counselling or a house or surgery, but I believe its time we put children first.

“The level of impact varies depending on the type of issue, how serious it is and the specific vulnerability of the child. A parent with severe mental health issues can have a profound impact on an infant’s development, while the same issue has less impact on an older child.”

Priority allocation of services for vulnerable children and those who care for them is one of the proposals in the Green Paper for Vulnerable Children. Submissions for the Green Paper close on 28 February.

“As a society we need to talk about whether we’re ok with waiting longer for a service if it means improving the life of a vulnerable child. I’d urge people to have their say by making a submission on the Green Paper proposals,” Dr Wills said.


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