It has some pretty scary statistics in it – that we rank 28th out of 30 OECD countries for child outcomes across measures like youth suicide, teenage pregnancies, infant mortality and over-crowding in homes. And that those poor outcomes for our children cost us $6 billion per year, in addition to the enormous social waste and strife they cause us.
The area where we really need to buck up our ideas is for the under-6s. Research shows this is the most vital time in our lives for producing happy, well-adjusted, successful people. And we’re doing particularly poorly currently.
We spend about $16,000 per child on under-6s – less than half the OECD average. Denmark, at the top of the outcomes, spends $60,000. That would be a massive increase in expenditure in tough times, so perhaps we can look to the Netherlands as our aim, spending $30,000 per child for almost as good outcomes as Denmark.
As long as we continue to under-invest in our children and we will continue to pay the price. As Prof Dame Anne Salmond puts it:
An ageing society that doesn’t care for its young has a death wish…
Baby-boomers need every child to do well so that they can be supported in their retirement. Every child deserves to be given the opportunity to succeed, to not have their health compromised, to not be put on a track to prison or depression.
That’s why this election Labour is Putting Children First, with a raft of policies aimed at improving our care and education of under-6s, from increased maternity leave, through compulsory Well-Child enrolment, through to putting back proper funding for ECE and more. Labour understand that we need more investment in our children – not just in financial terms, but also in terms of expertise and advice to parents. Annette King says it is time that looking after children was again considered as employment.
The report calls for cross-party agreement on this issue so that we can make progress, and the Greens, seeing that a quarter of kiwi kids are in poverty, have their 100,000 children out of poverty policy.
But the stumbling block is National.
From Radio NZ:
Prime Minister John Key agrees the future of some children is at risk, but says their needs should be balanced with those of other New Zealanders.
Child welfare isn’t at the top of his list, and National’s policies cutting ECE and attacking those on the DPB – those who need help the most – show it. They’ve consistently refused to work with Labour when offers to work together on this have been offered.
John Key’s only response was to rubbish the report – put out by a group of New Zealand’s leading child charities – in Question Time yesterday.
We deserve better for our children and grand-children – and for our country. In fact, our future needs it.
NB: the “1000 days” in the report title refers to the first 3 years of a child’s life.