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Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has ignored official advice that children’s health could suffer as a consequence of her social obligation regime, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.
“Papers obtained under the Official Information Act show that Ms Bennett was told by Ministry of Health officials that it did not support parents having their benefits cut if they didn't stay up to date with Well Child checks.
“The Ministry was clear in its advice that introducing mandatory checks risked 'undermining the effectiveness of the programme’ and that using sanctions in the way proposed by Ms Bennett ‘would have a negative impact on the health of sanctioned beneficiaries and their families’.
“The Ministry of Health also highlighted the fact that enrolments in the Well Child programme currently exceeds 95 per cent of the birth cohort each year and that the onus was actually on them to ‘do better to reach the families not currently receiving the full entitlement to well child checks by improving programme delivery’.
“Ms Bennett, unsurprisingly, never mentioned any of that when she announced her new social obligations.
“What a contrast - a ministry willing to acknowledge that they have a responsibility to lift their game for the well-being of our kids, and a minister who takes absolutely no responsibility for ensuring that all of the services she is forcing people to be enrolled with are actually available, and now looks set to shrug off any responsibility should the Ministry of Health advice be proved correct.
“This is a case of ground hog day for Ms Bennett who has once again allowed politics to come before evidence based policy and advice,” said Jacinda Ardern.