The UN committee on the rights of the child has had some harsh things to say about New Zealand’s performance in looking after our children.
20% of children are being raised in poverty. Labour’s Working For Families did a lot to improve the child poverty problem, but we’re slipping back under National.
Our infant and child mortality rates are “staggering” – partly caused by overcrowding causing disease and stress.
Also, children were “fairly invisible” in legislation. More than a Families Commission and Child, Youth and Family Service, the UN reckons we should have a Ministry or Department to look after Children’s Issues.
So, should we do something to improve the lot of kids in our country? The Herald says no. But Labour will be loving it, having just released the start of their new child-centred policy. Labour will be going big on children this year.
As Whitney Houston says: “I believe the children are our future”. It may be an awful song, but it does contain that great truism.
So Labour have introduced their longer paid parental leave policy, and will introduce more and more early childhood-oriented policy during the year. They’ve consulted the experts, reviewed the research, and it all comes out with the same answer. If you want a better society, if you want more bang for your social buck: spend on early childhood.
That’s where you can break the cycle of socio-economic deprivation. That’s where you can intervene early before bad parenting leads to damaged kids who will cost us in health or prisons at a latter date. That where you can build strong, confident, critical thinking children, who will become the backbone of community and society in the future. Working with pre-schoolers and especially babies is in fact the most important work we do in society – even if it is by unpaid mothers.
So yes to longer paid-parental leave to allow all important child bonding. Yes to readily available parenting classes for all. Yes to an extended WFF entitlement to give parents options if they want to stay at home until their child is 2. Yes to increased (not cut!) Early Childhood Education to grow our children’s brains – especially with regard to self-control and emotional and communication functions.
Peter Dunne may go with whoever will pay for his beloved Families Commission, but he must wonder if he’s backed the right horse – yes National have funded his Commission, but as the UN point out, their main contribution to children this term, is to have lowered the age of criminal responsibility on some crimes; introducing them to prisons and the criminal life at an age when they can still be reformed.