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Plunket concerned about proposed welfare reforms

11 September 2012

Plunket concerned about how proposed welfare reforms will impact on children

New Zealand’s largest provider of services to support the health and development of children under five supports Social Development Minister Paula Bennett’s focus on families accessing vital education and health services. Plunket is however concerned about how the proposed financial sanctions could impact on children.

Helen Connors, Plunket’s General Manager of Service Development says achieving better health outcomes for New Zealand children is an issue for all New Zealanders.

“We agree with the Minister when she says that it is important that children have the opportunity to get the best possible start in life. But Plunket believe this is important for all children, not just those identified as vulnerable. By focusing on one group the risk is that an even greater number could slip into vulnerability”.

A report was recently commissioned by the Every Child Counts coalition into how to achieve better results for children in New Zealand. This report, the Netherlands study, supports the social obligations highlighted by Minister Bennett – Early Childhood Education, Well Child/Tamariki Ora checks, enrolment with a GP and attending school.

“While we believe that it’s important for all families to take advantage of the free services that are available to them, such as Well Child health checks, we don’t believe that financial penalties for those who don’t are the answer”, says Ms Connors.

“The Minister’s proposal to cut a family’s benefit by up to 50% if they don’t comply with the Governments requirements has the potential to disadvantage children who need that support the most.

“There are a number of complex factors that contribute to uptake of services. For some vulnerable families the choices are not as simple or straight forward as they are for others”, she says.

“Children need to be at the centre of social policy. It’s important that we look for ways of engaging with families and connecting them to the services that are available to them.

“Financially sanctioning parents will undoubtedly have a direct impact on children. We need to be looking for ways to support parents and improve health outcomes for our nation’s children”.

ENDS

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