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Budget fact sheets 2005 - early intervention to help New Zealand children and families

The Government is investing about $43.7 million over the next four years on a package of early intervention proposals for vulnerable young children and their families.

This package aims to address problems that are contributing to poor outcomes for a significant number of young children and to ensure that all children get a good start in life.

These proposals will:

  • Expand and improve the effectiveness of targeted services.
  • Improve support to vulnerable young children and families through universal services.
  • Improve co-ordination of services and families’ engagement with these services.

These investments provide a starting point for a cross-sectoral early intervention programme to support vulnerable children and their families from before birth through to transition to school.

The initiatives funded within this investment are:

  • Family Start
  • Early Childhood Centre Based Parent Support pilot
  • Parenting Support pilot that builds on the core Well Child health service
  • Services for Children who Witness Family Violence
  • Family Court parenting information programme

Family Start Boost

The Government is investing $18.8 million over the next four years to significantly boost services to families through the successful Family Start programme.

New Family Start Sites

The funding will see the programme expanded to between four and six new sites providing services to an additional 300 families located in small towns or rural communities.

Family Start is an intensive home-visiting social service aimed at the 15% of families with children aged under five years who have the greatest needs.

It is currently delivered in 16 sites. Funding for a further 11 locations was announced in the 2004 Budget. Implementation of these 11 locations will be completed by 2008. This will provide services in Kaitaia, Kaikohe, Whangarei, Auckland City, Manukau City, Ranui-Massey, Papakura District, Hamilton, Waikato District, South Waikato District, Rotorua, Kawerau, Whakatane, Opotiki, Gisborne, Ruapehu, Taupo, Napier City, Hastings North, Masterton, Whanganui, Horowhenua, Porirua East, Lower Hutt City, Nelson, Dunedin, and Invercargill. A similar programme, Early Start, is delivered in Christchurch.

The location of the new sites announced in this budget is yet to be confirmed but will be selected on the same basis as previous sites including taking account of Territorial Local Authority boundaries, socio-economic factors and the ability of providers in the area to deliver the programme.

The latest expansion sees an additional investment of $6.2 million over four years with an ongoing funding commitment of $1.6 million per year in out-years.

Study Awards

To increase the qualification levels of Family Start Family/Whanau workers, 200 part-time study awards will be made available to cover workers’ tertiary education costs.

A maximum of 50 awards will be offered per year which will pay for course fees, backfilling and other course-related expenses to enable Family Start Family/Whanau workers to study part-time for a relevant diploma-level tertiary qualification from the 2006 academic year.

The increase in the number of qualified Family Start workers will ensure that a higher quality programme is delivered and will improve outcomes for families and children in Family Start.

A Family Start Training Co-ordinator will be employed by the Ministry of Social Development to work with Family Start and training providers to help identify service providers’ individual needs and develop training plans.

The training package will cost $4.2 million over four years with an ongoing funding commitment of $1.3 million per year in out-years.

Early Childhood Education Pilot

A pilot project will be launched in December this year that will provide free high quality early childhood education for approximately 1,750 children in Family Start or Early Start.

Children, particularly vulnerable children, benefit educationally and developmentally from participating in high quality early childhood education. This pilot will test whether free high quality early childhood education increases participation by very vulnerable children.

The pilot, covering seven locations, will see the Ministry of Social Development meet full early childhood education fees (up to $6.00 per hour) for a maximum of 20 hours per week for up to the first 12 months participation in early childhood education and for 15 hours per week in the following six months. After this period families will be able to access Childcare Subsidy so long as they meet income limits.

The location of the pilot areas is yet to be determined.

The pilot will cost $8.4 million over four years with an on-going funding commitment of $2.1 million per year in out-years.

Parenting Support Pilot

The Government is investing nearly $2.1 million over the next four years to pilot and evaluate a universal parenting support service for all parents of young children that will build on the core Well Child health service.

The service will focus on preventing early behaviour problems in children, early identification of parenting/family problems, and improving access to targeted specialised services where necessary. Preventing behaviour problems in children is a high priority for Government as early difficult behaviours are associated with a range of later problems including school drop-out, alcohol and drug misuse, mental health problems, unemployment and crime.

The pilot will provide one individual parenting session for parents (when their babies are aged around eight months) and two sessions with groups of parents (when children are aged at around 12 and 15 months). The individual session will be focused on improving understanding of normal child behaviour and social development and ways to decrease parent-toddler conflict. The group sessions will focus on ways to encourage desirable behaviours, the need for consistent, decisive responses to early problem behaviour such as aggression and biting, effective alternatives to harsh parenting when managing toddler misbehaviour, and where to seek further help if needed.

The individual session will be delivered by specially trained Well Child providers. Group sessions will be presented by a Well Child provider and a trained parent educator. Building on the Well Child service’s regular contact and rapport with parents, the parent support programme will be voluntary, non-stigmatising and free of charge.

The first phase of the pilot will be a small trial within one District Health Board area from January 2006 to January 2007. From July 2007 the pilot will be extended to two further District Health Boards to test its effectiveness with a larger sample of families.

The areas where the pilot will be delivered are yet to be confirmed.

Services for Children who Witness Family Violence

The Government is investing $12 million over the next four years to improve services for children who witness family violence.

This initiative will ensure that people working with children and families recognise and address the needs of children living in situations involving family violence through:

  • Providing child advocacy services across the country, based in community Non Government Organisations (NGOs) focussed on the prevention of family violence
  • Establishing a national infrastructure to provide professional leadership, training and coordination for the child advocates
  • Providing training for family violence prevention NGOs and others who work with children and families so they can respond effectively to the needs of children who witness family violence
  • Increasing the availability of effective services for children who witness family violence

It will also contribute to Government’s responses to violence within families.

Child Advocacy Services

The role of the 45 child advocates will include:

  • Education and awareness (for others working with children affected by family violence)
  • Monitoring of systems including Police and Courts to ensure the needs of children are being met
  • Advice and consultation for those working with these children and their families
  • Specialist assessment and referral for individual children where necessary

Government agencies will work in partnerships with family violence prevention NGOs to implement the new child advocacy service, taking close account of related initiatives such as the Family Safety Team pilots. The role of the community NGO based child advocates will complement the work of Family Safety Team child advocates whose primary focus is systems monitoring and repeat family violence reported to Police.

National Infrastructure

A contract will be awarded within the NGO sector for the provision of a national professional leadership, training and co-ordination service for the child advocates. The organisation/s providing this service will have specialist expertise in child advocacy and family violence prevention and will work closely with the advocates and their employing organisations.


A regionally-based education and training plan will be developed to support the implementation of the child advocacy service. Training contracts will be awarded to NGOs with training expertise and specialist knowledge about the needs of child witnesses of family violence.

Children's Services

This initiative provides services and resources for children whose caregivers do not have protection orders to access children’s programmes under the Domestic Violence Act.

The services aim to help children deal with the effects of family violence and include one-to-one therapy and education.

The initiative also provides additional resources for providers of the programmes to continue ongoing support of the whole family once the programme is completed. This includes supporting the caregivers of children receiving these services.

Early Intervention: Early Childhood Education Centre Based Parent Support

The Government is investing $4.6 million over four years in a pilot scheme based in Early Childhood Education (ECE) Centres that aims to improve support for parents of young children, with a particular focus on vulnerable families with children aged 0-3.

Parenting education, parent social support and outreach activities will be provided by approximately eight Early Childhood Education (ECE) centres in 2005/2006 and in a further 10 centres in 2006/2007.

Research shows parent education and support can significantly influence child outcomes. The pilot is focused on ensuring that all children are given the best possible start in life in order to improve health, education and social outcomes. The pilot will help parents build on their parenting skills and knowledge, improve their connection and access to broader social support services (e.g. health services) and networks, and achieve better co-ordination between children’s experiences at home and in ECE.

Funding will be available for ECE centres to develop and provide the following services, building on their current provision and reflecting the needs of their local community:

  • Parenting education services at the centre (e.g. parenting classes).
  • Parent social support (e.g. information about and support to connect to other social support services).
  • Outreach activities to increase participation by vulnerable families in the ECE centre’s services.

The geographical areas in which funding will be available have not yet been determined, but will be selected to ensure the initiative reaches vulnerable families most in need of support.

Implemented by the Ministry of Education, the pilot will complement the range of support services currently available for families, including initiatives under the ECE Strategic Plan, and the existing range of parent support programmes.

Family Court Parenting Information Programme

The Early Intervention package also includes a proposal for a Family Court parenting information programme, led by the Ministry of Justice. The proposal seeks to provide parent education/information programmes in approximately 50 locations with referrals from the Family Court and other relevant organisations. This proposal recognises that family separation can have a significant adverse impact on child development, particularly where conflict is involved.

Parenting education and information programmes aim to increase parents' understanding of the impact of separation on children, their ability to communicate with their children and their networks for on-going support. Approximately 8,000 families per year are expected to access the programmes once they are fully implemented. Funding for this proposal is $6.2 million over four years.

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