City Soapbox, Hamilton News, July 2016

News item
Friday, July 1, 2016

More families to receive intensive home support

It seems there is infinite demand for finite taxpayer resources, so it is important that publicly-funded programmes are reviewed regularly to ensure the taxes we all pay are being spent wisely and to best effect.  This is an under-lying principle of the Government’s Better Public Services policy, which I strongly support.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley recently announced that $7.3 million a year will be reallocated from the low-intensity home visitation programme Parents as First Teachers (PAFT) to support more vulnerable children and their families through the more intensive home visiting programme Family Start.

Family Start is a programme for families and whanau struggling with challenges or problems that may make it harder for them to care for their baby or young child.  Unlike PAFT, it is firmly focused on reducing child maltreatment.

Family Start is an evidence-based home visitation programme with proven results.  By increasing its funding, we are investing in those who are in the most need of support.

Family Start has been shown to increase mothers’ use of community-based mental health services, while improving child immunisation rates and participation in Early Childhood Education.  Family Start currently works with 5000 at-risk families at any one time.  The extra funding will support an additional 1250 families nationwide.

The programme is home-based and focused on the child’s health, growth, education and safety.  Families can access support from the third month of a preganancy, with referrals taken until the baby is one year old.  They may stay with Family Start until the child is five.

Parents and caregivers who face challenges of mental health issues, drinking, using drugs or problem gambling, or who suffered abuse as children, will benefit from help, advice and ideas from Family Start.  They will be supported to keep their baby and child safe and put in touch with other help or services if required.

Families will be able to attend monthly Ahuru Mowai/Born to Learn parenting education sessions, which will help parents and caregivers understand their child’s needs at different stages.  Help will be available to work out what each family wants to achieve, change or improve and a plan put in place to ensure these goals are achieved.

From 1 October 2016, eligible families currently receiving PAFT will be referred to Family Start, and others will be able to access resources such as Strategies for Kids, Information for Parents (SKIP) and targeted parenting programmes such as Incredible Years.

We want to ensure young New Zealanders have every opportunity to be healthy, safe and strong, with extra support available for those who need it.  This reinvestment supports the Community Investment Strategy which is working to align funding for those with the highest needs to evidence-based and results-focused social services.