Prime Minister Bill English has announced $321 million to roll out programmes in support of vulnerable children, including more home visits.
Speaking in Wellington on Wednesday, English said the package included $28.1m over four years to roll out the Family Start programme, which targets pre-school children with oral language needs and literacy difficulties.
There would also be $34.7m to support more children with behavioural issues and $6m on communication issues.
Announcing the funding as part of a “social investment” package, English said the Government was also setting new targets for the public service to meet in “in the areas where we can make a real difference”.
* NZ tax boost pushes Government Budget into surplus by $400m
* NZ Government books running $1.6 billion in the red as tax take disappoints
* NZ’s return to deficit will be short-lived as economy set to rebound – Treasury
Those targets included having 90 per cent of pregnant women register with a lead maternity carer in their first three months; reducing the number of hospitalisations for children 12 and under with preventable conditions; improving literacy and numeracy focusing on students in year 8; reducing the number of serious crime victims by 10,000 and achieving a 20 per cent reduction in the time it takes ot house priority clients on the social housing register.
An extra 570 families will be seen under the Family Start programme with the new funding.
Children’s Minister Anne Tolley and Education Minister Nikki Kaye said Family Start could help reduce infant mortality, lead to higher child immunisation rates and participation in early childhood education, and ensure more mothers who need it can access community based mental health services.
The extra funding would be targeted at children with severe behavioural difficulties, focusing on those aged eight and under.
English said the Government had a much better understanding of the drivers of long term social dysfunction – and it could see some of those drivers in children as young as five.
“Of the children known to the care and protection system, fewer than 40 per cent will receive NCEA Level 2, and 70 per cent will be on a benefit by age 21.
“These children are seven times more likely to be in trouble with police as teenagers, and nine times more likely to receive a custodial sentence.
“These are children who have come to the attention of social services, usually because of problems in their own families.”