Update on Work in Each Action Area

Action Area One: Promoting the whole child approach

Cabinet has asked government agencies to apply the Agenda’s whole child approach when developing policies and initiatives that affect children.

MSD is leading seminars to increase understanding and promote application of the whole child approach within the public service. The seminars aim to:

  • build understanding of children’s issues and of what children need for healthy development
  • examine the meaning of the whole child approach for public sector policy and service delivery and how it can help deliver good outcomes for children
  • provide public servants with information, training and guidance so they can apply the whole child approach to their work.

We are also planning regional seminars or workshops on the Agenda and the whole child approach with local government and community groups during 2003.

We have a project underway to gather information about the awareness and application of the whole child approach in government agencies.

Action Area Two: Increasing children’s participation

Participation by children and young people in the governance and life of their school

The Ministries of Social Development and Youth Affairs are working with the Education Review Office (ERO) and the Ministry of Education to promote and support participation by children and young people in the governance and life of their schools.

As part of the review of schools in 2002, ERO gathered information on ways in which schools are promoting student participation in decision-making.

One hundred and seventy-five primary, intermediate and secondary schools were asked about student participation across a range of school settings. Information was gathered on:

  • the range of opportunities and mechanisms available for student participation in decision making
  • how students participate in decision making in the classroom
  • how student diversity is recognised (including ethnicity, special needs, disabilities and sexual orientation)
  • initiatives identified as working well to promote student participation.

ERO has published the findings on their website.

Child and youth participation guides

The Ministries of Social Development and Youth Affairs have both developed practical guides on child and youth participation for government and community organisations that want to involve children and young people in their work:

Increasing the Participation of Children, Young People and Young Adults in Decision Making: A Literature Review

This review of national and international literature and resources, covers issues specific to children, young people and young adults. It includes good practice principles, practical guidelines and specific mechanisms for increasing their involvement in decision-making processes. The review highlights ways to increase the participation of Maori, Pacific or other ethnic groups; and those with disabilities.

Download the Literature Review

Action Area Three: An end to child poverty

Child poverty work is being progressed as part of the Investing in Child and Youth Development priority in the Government’s Sustainable Development Plan of Action

MSD is leading work to review family income assistance, including the childcare subsidy. The aim is to improve support for low income families with children, and promote sustainable employment for low income parents.

We also have significant research to guide the policy work:

The Living Standards research has seen the development of new tools which will give government more detailed information on child poverty. The Living Standards research continues this year.

Key information from the Living Standards research includes:

  • eighty percent of New Zealanders are doing OK
  • about 57 percent of people on income-tested benefits have restricted living standards
  • over half of sole parent families with dependent children have restricted living standards
  • Maori and Pacific families are more likely to experience restricted living standards than people from other ethnic groups
  • over 25 percent of all families with dependent children experience restricted living standards.

For children in families experiencing restricted living standards:

  • one in five can’t afford a visit to the doctor
  • one in five share a bed because of cost
  • more than one in three don’t go on school outings or play organised sport
  • more than one in three go without school books and supplies because they can’t afford them
  • one in five don’t have good warm clothing or shoes.

The Social Report series provides a wealth of information on the social health and wellbeing of New Zealand society. Information on family income is of particular relevance to work on child poverty. Using one indicator of low income, The Social Report 2002 revealed:

  • twenty-nine percent of dependent children live in families below the low income threshold of 60% of median income after housing costs
  • sixty-six percent of children in sole parent families are below this threshold
  • sixty-two percent of families whose main source of income is an income tested benefit are below the low income threshold
  • families with any Maori adult; Pacific adult; or adult belonging to the “other” ethnic group category are more likely to be below the low inco2me threshold than the average New Zealand family.

The Social Report was updated in July 2003.

Action Area Four: Addressing violence in children’s lives with a particular focus on reducing bullying

Work is underway to strengthen existing approaches to reducing bullying in the lives of children and young people.

Current work involves:

  • identifying ways of advancing anti-bullying initiatives within the work programmes of broader violence prevention strategies, such as:
  • strengthening and enhancing the links between work to address bullying and Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum; and
  • undertaking three case studies to examine the different approaches taken by three primary schools to creating positive school cultures and environments and in particular to reduce bullying.

The government agencies working together on this action area include: the Ministries of Social Development, Education, Health, Youth Affairs and Pacific Island Affairs; New Zealand Police; Department of Child, Youth and Family Services; Te Puni Kokiri, and the Offices of Ethnic Affairs and Disability Issues.

Action Area Five: Improving central government structures and processes to enhance policy and service effectiveness for children

The implementation of the Agenda for Children and the Ministry of Youth Affairs’ Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa has been brought together in a joint “Action for Child and Youth Development” work programme. This is overseen by a steering group that meets fortnightly.

Investing in Child and Youth Development is a priority area in the Government’s Sustainable Development Plan of Action. This work aims to achieve greater integration of child and youth issues across government and is overseen by a group of senior public service staff across various government agencies.

Action Area Six: Improving local government and community planning for children

This work focuses on participation of children and young people in local government decision-making processes and improving planning for their needs. The Ministries of Social Development and Youth Affairs and the Department of Internal Affairs are working together on this project, with involvement from Local Government New Zealand and UNICEF (New Zealand).

We’ve looked at how local councils across the country are currently involving children and young people and planning for their needs. We asked every council in New Zealand to respond to questions about participation and planning. Nearly 60 councils responded. We prepared a report on the findings and sent it to councils in March 2003.


The responses give us an excellent information base for the next piece of work. This will be work with Local Government New Zealand to determine how we could best assist councils to enhance participation opportunities for children and young people in council decision-making and planning. We are currently developing a web-based toolkit for council staff on planning for children and involving them in decisions that affect them. The toolkit is scheduled for completion in September 2003.

We're liaising with UNICEF (NZ) on the development of its “Child and Youth Friendly Communities” initiative which focuses on encouraging councils to take the lead in making their communities child and youth friendly.

More information is available about this initiative from UNICEF website.

Action Area Seven: Enhancing information, research and research collaboration relating to children

The Social Policy Evaluation and Research Committee (SPEaR) is looking at priorities for future research investment. The information needs identified in the Agenda for Children and in Te Rito are important inputs into this priority setting.

In 2002, the MSD commissioned a report which assessed the merits of establishing a new longitudinal study of children in New Zealand. MSD is supporting a consultation, development and design phase for a new longitudinal study.