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It is widely accepted across the world that failure to protect children from the impact of poverty in their early years is one of the most costly mistakes a society can make.
Dennis McKinlay, Executive Director of UNICEF NZ (UN Children’s Fund), is urging the government to be mindful of the needs of children in the 2012 budget and to consider the impact of any new policy or legislation on their immediate and longer term welfare:
“Numerous studies show that investment in early years - through providing universal support for parents, infants and pre-schoolers so that every child can have the best start in life - pays dividends in later years,” he said.
“Sadly in New Zealand there are too many children who miss out on the vital necessities to make them healthy, happy and included within the society they will grow into.
“The heaviest cost is borne by those children themselves. Yet our nation also pays a significant price in lower levels of health and educational achievement, increased likelihood of unemployment and welfare dependence, and higher costs in justice and social protection systems.
“Children have only one opportunity to develop well. Our economic and social policies need to prioritise children now if we are to achieve a better future for all New Zealanders.”
“We will be storing up intractable social and economic problems for the years ahead if we fail to protect children’s best interests and their right to their fair share of the nation’s resources. No strategy for economic growth and good social outcomes is more effective and efficient than to give each and every child a good start in life,” said McKinlay.