Better Public Services: Supporting vulnerable children
Lead Minister: Hon Tony Ryall and Hon Hekia Parata
Lead CEO: Ministry of Social Development, Chief Executive Brendan Boyle - supported by Ministry of Education Acting Chief Executive Peter Hughes
Lead Minister: Hon Tony Ryall
Lead CEO: Ministry of Social Development, Chief Executive Brendan Boyle - supported by Ministry of Health Director General Kevin Woods
Lead Minister: Hon Tony Ryall and Hon Paula Bennett
Lead CEO: Ministry of Social Development, Chief Executive Brendan Boyle
Why are these important for New Zealand?
We know there is a link between early childhood experiences and adult mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, poor educational outcomes and unemployment. Too many children are at risk of poor outcomes because they do not get the early support they need.
The human and financial costs of not facing up to these challenges are too high. We know that remedial spending is often less effective, and more costly, than getting it right the first time. For example, treating rheumatic fever alone costs an estimated $40 million a year in New Zealand.
Early intervention brings benefits in terms of reduced imprisonment and arrest rates, higher employment and higher earnings later in life. By doing better for vulnerable children, we could set them on a pathway to a positive future, and help build a more productive and competitive economy for all New Zealanders.
How will we know we are achieving these results?
The Government’s targets for supporting vulnerable children:
Result 2: Increase participation in early childhood education
In 2016, 98% of children starting school will have participated in quality early childhood education.
To achieve this target we estimate that we need to enrol an additional 12,000 children between now and 2016 (this estimate is based on current population projections – actual numbers are subject to change). This is on top of the growth already predicted to take place over the same period.
Result 3: Infant immunisation
Increase infant immunisation rates so that 95 percent of eight-month-olds are fully immunised by December 2014 and this is maintained through to 30 June 2017.
As at 31 March 2013, 89 percent of eight-month-olds nationally had completed scheduled vaccinations.
Result 3: Rheumatic fever
Reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever by two thirds to 1.4 cases per 100,000 people by June 2017.
Based on 2010-11 hospitalisation data, the annual rate of rheumatic fever initial episodes is 4.2 cases per 100,000 population. About 70% of cases occur in children aged between 5 and 14 years of age. In 2011 there were 187 cases of initial episodes of acute rheumatic fever. We are working towards a five-year goal of reducing rheumatic fever by two thirds to 1.4 cases per 100,000 per year by 2017. This is a stretch goal, as illustrated in Figure 2 below (the dotted line from 2012 shows the projected rate).
By 2017, we aim to halt the 10-year rise in children experiencing physical abuse and reduce current numbers by 5%.
This is extremely ambitious. Numbers are rising, and projected to rise further without intervention. Meeting this 5% target means bringing the projected number of 4,000 children expected to experience substantiated physical abuse down by 1,064 to 2,936 in 2017, which is a reduction of 25% in projected numbers.
We also expect that actions taken through the White Paper for Vulnerable Children may increase reporting of child assaults by raising awareness of child abuse. In the short term, however, it means that substantiated findings/cases of physical abuse against children is likely to increase above that forecast. The number of children experiencing substantiated physical abuse is measured on a yearly basis for the year to June. In the year to June 2012, this number increased to 3,182 compared to 3,086 in the year to June 2011. This rise was not as sharp as had been originally forecast, and we have now revised our projection.
Figure 3 below shows the number of children who experienced substantiated physical abuse each year, up to June 2012.
As Figure 3 shows, substantiated physical abuse figures have trended upwards over several years.
Quarterly updates are also provided to give an indication of how the yearly figure is tracking. In the December 2012 quarter, 906 children experienced substantiated physical abuse. This was higher than the September 2012 quarter figure of 818. The higher December figure suggests that the trend is rising in line with our projection.
What are we doing to achieve these results?
To increase participation in early childhood education, we propose to:
better enable providers to engage hard-to-reach children
change funding policies to encourage participation
gain support from schools to find and engage children under six years of age
target intervention where participation is very low.
To increase infant immunisation, we propose to:
support every pregnant woman to have a named GP before birth
ensure every baby is registered with a GP before they are two-weeks-old
pre-call infants for their six-week immunisation when they are four-weeks-old and promptly recall infants who are not up-to-date with immunisations
better join up two services for families – Well Child/Tamariki Ora and Family Start.
To help prevent rheumatic fever, we propose to:
provide throat swabbing and treatment to children at high risk
raise community and health sector awareness of the disease
improve knowledge of rheumatic fever through surveillance and research
work across government agencies to address risk factors like housing conditions and hygiene in schools – for example, by ensuring hot water and soap are available
Actions to reduce the number of assaults on children will be implemented through the Children’s Action Plan, which will deliver the solutions outlined in the Government’s White Paper for Vulnerable Children, which was released in October 2012. These actions will include:
better screening of children for vulnerability
fully assessing the needs of vulnerable children
better enabling frontline workers and communities to communicate concerns about children
making services more focused on results.
The supporting vulnerable children results area action plan outlines how agencies will work together on three results to support vulnerable children. It includes specific actions to increase participation in early childhood education, increase infant immunisation rates and decrease the incidence of rheumatic fever and reduce the number of assaults on children. In addition, it identifies a group of common actions for agencies to progress. These are:
better information sharing to identify and understand who our vulnerable children are and how we can help them
better targeted and integrated services
ensuring that government funding gets results
working together better at the frontline.
Read the Supporting Vulnerable Children Results Action Plan at: www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/work-programmes/better-public-services/supporting-vulnerable-children/index.html.