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80 Organisations Form Collective Voice for NZ Children

UNICEF NZ (United Children’s Fund)
Media Release
For immediate release

80 Organisations Form Collective Voice for New Zealand’s Children

- New Briefing Paper asks What Will it Take? -

A group of 80 New Zealand non-government organisations and child advocates are standing together to urge the Government to get it right for children in its forthcoming White Paper. A new briefing paper released today by UNICEF NZ, entitled What Will it Take, summarises the common themes from 80 organisations’ recent submissions to the Government’s Green Paper on Vulnerable Children.

The organisations and individuals who contributed to What Will it Take, span the breadth of New Zealand’s health, social, business and educational sectors – they are practitioners, academics, business, service providers and unions.

All have a strong interest in the wellbeing of this country’s children and an awareness of the implications of the Green paper’s proposals. The many organisations include: Brainwave Trust Aotearoa, NZ Childcare Association, NZ Council of Social Services, NZ Nurses Organisation, Paediatric Society of NZ and Salvation Army.*

Barbara Lambourn, National Advocacy Manager at UNICEF NZ, said “What Will it Take is intended to help drive discussion and inform debate ahead of the Government’s White Paper for children. We want to ensure that this important opportunity is at the forefront of people’s minds and we want the wellbeing of our children to be a priority for all New Zealanders.

“It is exceptionally rare for 80 well-established and highly credible organisations to come together as a unified voice, but the stark truth is that this could be our best, and maybe our last, chance to get it right for all of New Zealand’s children.

“All involved appreciate that the Government has taken this opportunity to focus on children and consider their needs, but we also want to ensure that any policy changes suggested are well considered and address all aspects of children’s wellbeing. It is of real concern to us that children are better off as a result of the forthcoming White Paper, and not actually disadvantaged.”

The key themes presented in What Will it Take are:

• The wellbeing of all children in New Zealand needs to be a priority. Of concern to many organisations is that the term ‘vulnerable’ was not clearly defined in the Green Paper. All children are essentially vulnerable. The Green Paper implied trade-offs that in order to do better for vulnerable children, some children currently receiving important services would have to miss out. Taking support away from some children and families is alarming and could lead to further problems.

• Government needs to focus on the underlying inequities which exist in New Zealand, especially the high levels of child poverty, if we are to empower families and communities to nurture children and ultimately create a society that puts children first. Government responsibility toward children who are vulnerable will not be met by service provision alone. Recognising and attending to how poverty, deprivation and social and economic disparities can be addressed is a vital element if we are to make a real difference for all children.

• To create tangible and long-term change, the Government needs to create a true Action Plan for all children. This means a Plan that invests in the future of all children – specifically a financial investment in the early years of a child’s life. A trade-off between polices that prevent vulnerability and fix-up services after the problem has occurred is not going to make the difference needed. An investment in the early years prevents higher costs later in a child’s life, through much more expensive remedial interventions and lost potential.
Ms Lambourn added, “The submissions we reviewed were strongly in favour of future policy being developed for all children and families for the long term. We need to make the most of this opportunity to build a society where every child really can thrive, achieve and belong.

“We have only one chance to get it right for each and every child. We believe that most New Zealanders recognise this and want the Government to be courageous enough to deal with it now through a long term, well supported, properly resourced, cross-party Action Plan for all children in New Zealand.”

What Will it Take, including further background information, can be viewed at www.unicef.org.nz/greenpaper

Quick quotes:

Quote from Dennis McKinlay (Executive Director, UNICEF NZ): “Government policy is the most influential determinant of child wellbeing.”

Quote from Ian Hassall (First Children’s Commissioner for NZ and child advocate): “We need to focus on manageable aspects of prevention as well as having a strategic plan - but not spending too much time on crafting it to the detriment of effective action.”

Quote from John Pearce: (Independent business consultant and entrepreneur): “We have to change the social view of what is affordable and the cost of not affording it.”


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