The summary of the submissions received in response to the Minister of Social Development’s “Green Paper for Vulnerable Children” released today is good news says Barbara Lambourn, National Advocacy Manager for UNICEF NZ. The summary showing the depth of feeling New Zealanders have about the need for action to progress child and family wellbeing.
“One of the key themes in submissions was the importance of addressing the wider social and economic causes of vulnerability. Dealing with vulnerability in isolation from other issues won’t solve the problems children face,” said Ms Lambourn, also noting that it is still not clear what a “vulnerable” child is.
A snapshot of 80 submissions from a wide range of well-established organisations reviewed by a team from UNICEF NZ agreed that all children, whatever their circumstances or experience are vulnerable to some extent.
The expectation that no child should be disadvantaged as the result of any new government policy and many more children should be much better off was made clear in the summary of submissions.
UNICEF NZ was pleased to note that the summary released today showed that support for the provision of universal basic services to all children, with extra services targeted to children needing additional support, was a common theme as it was a theme that reflects the views in the submissions UNICEF NZ examined.
The summary of submissions notes that there was support for Action Plan from Government that is workable, action-focussed and addresses issues such as poverty, child health, education and parenting education.
Ms Lambourn said, “The Green Paper vision that “every child in New Zealand thrives, belongs and achieves” is only achievable if children’s rights and interests are the priority and there is adequate investment to support an Action Plan and ensure that all children have what they need to reach their potential.
“We are a long way from that vision now but it is within our sights if politicians are prepared to demonstrate leadership and are serious about getting it right for children. Government policy is the primary determinant of whether children do well or otherwise.
“This is the opportunity for government to capitalise on community goodwill and support partnerships and community led action. Too much is at stake to allow any quick fix solutions and tinkering to paper over the cracks of fundamental issues affecting children – such as universal access to good health services, an adequate family income and decent housing,” said Ms Lambourn.
Ms Lambourn added, “It’s accepted across the world that investment in the early years, support for parents and attitudes that place children at the centre of our policy goals can make the difference needed, and save huge costs in remedial services needed to deal with deficiencies. Child impact assessments for any new legislation were supported by the submissions and this is something that can be introduced quite soon if there is the will.
“There is plenty of good direction, good thinking and ideas for government in the submissions so we look forward to a plan addressing the needs of all children for the long term, that has cross sector support and is reinforced by all parties in the House so that children’s rights and wellbeing are no longer subject to oppositional politics.”