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Well Child Obligations Target Families for “Surveillance”

Well Child Obligations Target Families for “Surveillance”


April 5, 2013


Palmerston North, NZ – Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett’s Social Security Bill passed its second reading on Wednesday, 20 March, by a narrow one-vote margin and will soon progress to a third reading vote. The Bill’s “social obligations”, which will remove beneficiary parents’ right to make decisions for their children’s health and education, came under scrutiny from Greens MP Metiria Turei during the Second Reading Debate. According to Ms Turei, Minister for Health Tony Ryall has warned that the social obligations will put the health of children at risk, but his concerns have been ignored by Paula Bennett.


“This Minister knows that children will suffer as a result of this bill,” said Ms Turei during her speech. “They know that fewer children will access health care. They know that fewer children will get medicine.”


Under the Bill, Well Child/Tamariki Ora checks will be compulsory for children of beneficiaries. The Ministry of Health objected to the social obligations in the Bill, saying, “There are risks to the Well Child programme if the checks are seen as a punishment or a sanction. One of the valuable traits of Well Child has been that it is non-threatening with a high degree of public and family acceptability.”


Ms Turai also quoted Health Minister Tony Ryall saying that the social obligations for Well Child checks would case “substantial negative impacts on families and to vulnerable children, including risks of increased maltreatment and neglect.”


“We also expect that beneficiaries sanctioned under the Bill will be more likely to defer health care and present at emergency departments,” Mr Ryall said.


Ms Turei says that the Bill’s social obligations seek to use the Well Child checks to run “surveillance” on beneficiary families. “In July 2012 the Ministry of Health asked the Ministry of Social Development to amend the wording of a paper that was going to Cabinet. The Ministry of Health said, ‘Please remove the word “surveillance”. The Well Child programme is not designed or intended as a mechanism for surveillance of beneficiary families or indeed any families.’”


“This shows what the intention of Paula Bennett was then, and is still now,” said Ms Turei.


When asked about these concerns during debate, Ms Bennett’s answer was revealing. “We think it is incredibly damaging not to have your child enrolled for Well Child checks…It is actually incredibly damaging not to have them immunised.”


“This is horrendous,” says Barbara Smith of the Home Education Foundation. “It just confirms what so many parents in New Zealand have been afraid of—that these compulsory health checks will be used to enforce Paula Bennett’s 95% immunisation goal.


“They will be used to carry out surveillance on families. They will be used to promote treatments like immunisation, which is a parent’s choice.


“Responsible parents don’t want to be spied on. They don’t want to be pressured by government agencies into treatments they believe are harmful.


“They want to make their own informed decisions.”


Metiria Turei says, “That is what the Government is removing from parents: the right to decide for themselves what is in the best interests of their child.”


Mrs Smith encourages concerned New Zealanders to write, call, and ring their MPs before the Bill’s Third Reading within the next week or two.


“The Bill passed its Second Reading by only one vote, 61-60,” she says.


“We particularly need to contact the Honourable Members for Epsom and Ohariu, John Banks and

Peter Dunne, who have the option of changing their votes.


“We only need one more vote to make history.”
ends

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