The Wellbeing Budget

Improving child wellbeing

Reducing child poverty and improving child wellbeing, including addressing family violence

Highlights

Specialist services as part of a $320m package to address family and sexual violence

Breaking the cycle for children in State care, including helping 3,000 young people into independent living

Taking financial pressure off parents by increasing funding to decile 1-7 schools so they don't need to ask for donations

Lifting incomes by indexing main benefits and removing punitive sanctions

The Coalition Government has committed to tackling New Zealand's persistent and long-term challenge of child poverty, and to making our country the best in which to be a child.

Evidence shows that the experiences we have as children lay the foundation for healthy development and positive outcomes throughout the rest of life. Giving every child this chance means breaking the cycle of child poverty. This requires support for parents and caregivers to provide homes where children are safe and able to thrive. It requires supporting the education system to provide quality teaching for successful outcomes for all learners. We know these outcomes can be supported or harmed by some key factors:

  • Poverty early in a child's life can have a long-term detrimental effect on outcomes later in life, and persistent poverty is worse than intermittent poverty.
  • The abilities of parents to provide a safe, nurturing environment for children, supporting strong attachment, can significantly mitigate the impacts of other detrimental factors, in particular, poverty. Various factors can undermine parents' abilities to provide this kind of environment, for example, poor mental health and/or other chronic health conditions (which can be exacerbated by poor access to primary care) and family violence.
  • Children's resilience – which can be both positively and negatively affected by early experiences – influences how they fare when faced with difficult environments and transitions, both in childhood and throughout life.
  • Effective teaching is critical to children developing the social, emotional and cognitive skills needed for positive life outcomes. Education can also counter the impacts of key risk factors to children's development such as poverty, trauma, and neglect.

These factors are interdependent. There is emerging evidence that addresses the impact of 'toxic stress' – that is, the build-up of multiple different serious stressors such as inadequate housing, inadequate income, and family violence – on parents' abilities to provide a secure emotional environment for their children.

We know that every year, almost 300,000 children are affected by domestic violence. Within the State's care system, nine out of 10 children and young people have had a family violence incident in their lifetime, half within the last year. There is evidence that nearly 60 per cent of children and young people in care have experienced repeated significant trauma, often combined with mental health or substance use issues.

This evidence contributed to the Wellbeing Budget's child wellbeing priority. If we are to address this properly, we must start to do things differently. The Government has already set ambitious 10-year targets to halve child poverty (see page 20). It's what should be expected in a country like ours. Investments made in the Wellbeing Budget are targeted at addressing family and sexual violence, and ensuring our care system stops our most vulnerable children falling through the cracks.

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