Social Investment priorities

CPAG (Child Poverty Action Group) says that with a government election impending, it is crucial to bring in policies that have the wellbeing of all New Zealand’s children at the centre.

If ‘social investment’ policies were designed to ensure the wellbeing of children across all areas of life and all socio-economic levels, we could dramatically reduce the number of preventable hospital admissions among children.

But the current ‘social investment’ policies are poorly designed. Under these policies, the Ministry of Social Development targets an amount of funding for children based on their meeting a specific set of experience-related criteria. This defines them as being potentially vulnerable or ‘at risk’ of poor outcomes.

While poverty is a strong determinant for poor outcomes for children, it is not one of the ‘social investment’ risk factors.

Many of the children who meet the experience criteria may not actually have poor outcomes. Some children who need services will not receive them, while others who will not need assistance will have better access to it.

We can turn do better than this.

“There are very good reasons for investing in children and for investing well in children who have less resources and opportunities than they need,” says Associate Professor Mike O’Brien, CPAG social security spokesperson.

“The evidence internationally is clear– investment needs to be in all children and families, not just in a specially targeted group of ‘vulnerable children’.

“There are clearly enormous risks in a social investment approach which singles out a small group of children and their families,” says O’Brien, “Government and its agencies need to ensure that all children are able to grow, prosper and develop. This statistic-based ‘social investment’ certainly won’t do that.

“All children deserve the opportunity to flourish and develop to their best ability.”

CPAG’s priority for the 2017 election is the introduction of measures to substantially reduce child hospital admissions for preventable illnesses.

These measures must address three key areas that desperately require remedial attention:

● Inadequate basic healthcare services and education;

● Income poverty and material hardship; and

● A lack of affordable, healthy housing.

Addressing one area alone will have insufficient impact for children.

CPAG has compiled a comprehensive list of recommendations to improve the welfare system so that it supports all children in need, and not just a targeted few. Implementing these recommendations would ensure children’s needs are met adequately from conception through to adulthood.