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Lessons from The Netherlands - Every Child Counts

Media release from Every Child Counts
1000 days to get it right for every child: Lessons from The Netherlands

Embargoed until 10am 22 August 2012

A culture of respect for children and a social consensus about the importance of parenting are among the cultural and policy settings that deliver excellent child outcomes in the Netherlands, according to The Netherlands Study, to be launched by Every Child Counts* on Wednesday.

The Netherlands Study was commissioned to identify the policies contributing to the Netherlands having some of the best child outcomes in the OECD for a relatively low level of public investment.

“Our study indicates that the culture of respect for children and the consensus about the central role of parenting in the Netherlands translates into policies that support all parents to do a good job, with widely available parenting support and social housing,” says Liz Gibbs, Chair of Every Child Counts.

“Families in the Netherlands retain the ability to choose which support services they access, with an emphasis on prevention and comprehensive support for families rather than judgement and punishment. Services live or die on whether or not families choose to access them, rather than on whether or not they are preferred by government.

“There is a strong focus on local provision of care and support, with children up to the age of 19 receiving regular health checks, a strong emphasis on early childhood education for disadvantaged children, increased funding for schools where there is low parental education, half the level of child poverty that New Zealand has, and investment in childcare before and after school to make it easier for parents to work.

“In recent years, the Dutch have put significant effort into improving the tracking of children and ensuring that all professionals working with families coordinate their work and communicate with each-other.

“The strong economy in the Netherlands has enabled significant investment in near-universal support for families, highlighting the importance of ensuring our economy grows and government takes an investment approach to policies that enable good outcomes for children and families.

“The report makes a number of recommendations for action in New Zealand in the areas of parent support, housing, out-of-school-care, treatment of post-natal depression, improving data collection, building the evidence base about what works, social marketing to improve attitudes towards children, and adopting a set of principles to rebalance the relationship between families and the State. The report also recommends establishing a dialogue between New Zealand and the Netherlands to enable continued exchange of information and learning,” says Lizz Gibbs.

Issues for Maori

“Even-though the Netherlands does not have an indigenous population, this report addresses many issues relevant to Maori,” says Anton Blank, Executive Director of Ririki.

“Within two decades two in five New Zealand children will be Maori and Pasifika. These children currently experience two to three times the hardship of other groups. We need to urgently develop strategies to address Maori and Pasifika child poverty and build our nation’s wealth.
“The Netherlands concentrates on pre-school education for disadvantaged children, and this is a key area for improvement needed for Maori children. At the moment Maori participation in early childhood education is low compared to other groups, and this means that our children struggle when they get to primary school.

“We know that children from lower socio-economic communities often gain the most benefit from early childhood education, so we need to increase Maori participation rates.”

Ririki is also supporting recommendations for improving the effectiveness of State-funded housing for parents. Maori children make up nearly a third of those on the waiting list for state housing, and Maori and Pasifika families are much more likely to live in over-crowded housing than other groups.

“But perhaps the most significant characteristic of the Netherlands that we’re interested in is the culture of respect for children. This is something Aotearoa New Zealand needs to invest in,” says Anton Blank.

“We have developed a Maori parenting model called ‘Tikanga Whakatipu Ririki’. The model reclaims traditional Maori values about tamariki, and places children at the centre of whanau life. We want to see these values become more commonplace in Maori whanau. When we truly value our tamariki violence towards them will decrease and they will be safer in our whanau and communities.

“We also want to see all Maori whanau given better parenting support and better access to parenting education programmes. The Netherlands invests in parenting education and child abuse prevention – something New Zealand must do better. This is particularly important for young Maori who are twice as likely as other groups to become parents at a young age.

“We commend The Netherlands Study to parliamentarians and we hope it makes a useful contribution to current debate in New Zealand about ways to improve the status and wellbeing of our most precious resource: children,” conclude Liz Gibbs and Anton Blank.

The Netherlands Study is available here

[Scoop copy: NetherlandsStudy.pdf]

Note to Editors:
The Netherlands Study will be launched at Parliament at 1pm on Wednesday 22 August at an event co-hosted by National MP Alfred Ngaro and Labour MP Jacinda Ardern, in association with the Royal Dutch Embassy.

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