Children’s voices denied in Select Committee debacle

Source: Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) believes that National’s attempt to thwart Finance and Expenditure Select Committee submission hearings on the Budget Policy Statement last week has serious implications for the democratic process.

“On this particular occasion, representation for children, people affected by disability, and those facing disadvantage was denied,” says Associate Professor Susan St John, CPAG’s Economics Spokesperson.

“There are all too few opportunities to give a voice to those who may be unable to directly convey concerns about serious matters that affect their lives.”

Dr St John says that while CPAG was presenting on many of the same issues that have been brought to the Select Committee in the past, this year was important because there are new opportunities for being listened to now that the Government is committed to a well-being budget and the priority of reducing child poverty.  

“CPAG would like the government to honour its commitment to the well-being of the worst-off children with policies that go well beyond recent lifts to family incomes through changes to Working for Families (WFF) and Accommodation Supplement increases.

CPAG says investing in children’s wellbeing requires more substantive and enduring changes than have been implemented to date. These changes must be timely, and families should not have to wait a long time as they did with the overdue Families Package.

“Lifting the income of those on core benefits by around 30%, including the adding of the child tax credits together so that the worst off get an extra $72.50 a week should be an immediate response to unacceptable levels of family poverty,” says St John.

The harmful 5% cumulative inflation rule still applies to WFF. This disadvantages low-income families in times of low inflation and has no justification except as a cost-saving measure.  Treasury’s forecasts for inflation indicate that there won’t be another adjustment until April 2022.

“As well, the recent increase to abatement rates for WFF have reduced the chances that a low-income family in paid work, who earns a bit more, has to get ahead,” says St John.

“A family may find earning over the new threshold of $42700 for WFF may not be worthwhile after tax and abatements, especially if they are also getting the Accommodation Supplement. They could lose 67.50% of those extra earnings. If they are repaying a student loan this could be nearly 80%. Once their income is over $48,000 they may lose 92% of extra income because of the higher tax rate. For example, an extra $5000 might mean they are only $400 better off at the end of the year after working harder to get ahead.”

“It is simply false economics,” Says St John.

CPAG is says the decision to continue contributions to the NZ Super fund when poverty for children is so far from being solved is also highly questionable.

“Many of working age are paying the taxes both for NZ Super today and for their own NZ Super later – if they are lucky to live that long. It is more prudent for an ageing population to invest in the wellbeing of the young today.”

To read CPAG’s full submission to the Finance and Expenditure Committee on the Budget Policy Statement 2019, download it here.


Students Get Green Light For Dangerous Drug Use

Source: Family First

Media Release 19 February 2019
Family First NZ says that allowing drug use and drug testing at university orientation weeks is flawed and dangerous, and is being used by drug-friendly groups and a government apparently soft-on-drugs as a wedge for the normalisation of drug use.

“The Otago Student’s University Association is confused when they say that they ‘in no way condones drug use of any kind’ and that this is a ‘proactive move against drug use’. To most thinking people, that is laughable. Promoting and requiring drug-free events (similar to alcohol and smoke-free events) is not a ‘hardline’ approach – it’s a health and safety approach based on best practice. Drug overdoses are a huge concern, and testing won’t protect users because there is no such thing as a safe drug,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“Pill testing will be seen by many students as a clear endorsement of drug use. It sends a message that illicit drugs are acceptable and can be ‘safe’, and will worsen harmful drug use, so that more lives will be put at risk with the belief that the drug they are taking is somehow ‘safe’.”

“Pill testing also does not – and cannot – guarantee that the drug being taken will not cause any physical or mental harm or death to the individual consumer. It also cannot account for the individual’s physiological response to each drug.”

“It is being promoted by drug friendly groups – which says it all.”

Drug-Free Australia has provided research showing that according to the medical literature the accelerating number of Australian deaths from ecstasy are mostly not from overdosing, nor, according to coroners’ reports, are they due to impurities in party pills – but rather from individual reactions to drugs.

The President of Drug Free Australia recently sent an Open Letter to NZ politicians, saying
“We are urging you, as a parliamentarian who makes evidence-based decisions for the well-being of your nation’s individuals, to totally reject any further discussion on pill testing in New Zealand until such time as its advocates have demonstrated from available NZ Coroners’ reports that

  1. it is NOT the substance MDMA, or MDMA in a polydrug use context, which is chiefly responsible for the many NZ deaths; or
  2. that most of the deaths are alternately from MDMA consumed in amounts beyond what is considered normal for recreational use.”

“If pill testing is pursued with government approval, the inevitable result will be more people willing to use the substance on the false assumption that they are now safe.”

“This is simply another ‘facilitated’ ill-informed decision to consume illicit drugs. Students should enjoy orientation week and stop playing Russian Roulette with drugs and with their lives.”

“Advice from Victoria Police tells us it can give people a false and potentially fatal sense of security about illicit drugs.”
Victorian government spokesman, Jan 2019.

Public statements made by politicians that the trial would help ‘keep people safe’ were potentially misleading. MDMA is not a safe drug… The whole concept is based on the false assumption that if you do know what you’re taking, it is safe – something that is absolutely untrue.”
Toxicologist Andrew Leibie, from Safework Laboratories, Oct 2017


Plunket partners with Watercare

Source: New Zealand Plunket Society

Plunket New Zealand has partnered with Watercare in Auckland and Wellington Water to help families and whānau understand how they can protect their health and the local environment by being mindful of what they pour down the sink and flush down the toilet.

Plunket’s Northern Region Operations Manager Sam Ferreira says the partnerships provide a meaningful opportunity to leverage resources throughout our main regions to benefit families and the community.

“A lot of families are unaware of fatbergs, which are congealed masses of fat, grease, wet wipes and other non-flushable items. Fatbergs can block pipes and cause wastewater to overflow into people’s backyards as well as local waterways and beaches.

“We want people to know that if they flush non-biodegradable items – especially wet wipes, they are not only contributing to the growth of fatbergs, they are also running the risk of a wastewater overflow at home and a plumbing bill to fix blocked pipes.”

Auckland Watercare head of production, Peter Rogers, says the company spends around $1 million each year removing and preventing blockages from Auckland’s wastewater network and cleaning up overflows.

“We’re really pleased to be working with Plunket to let families know that we all play a part in reducing overflows and keeping our local environment healthy.

“The main thing we want to say to everyone is to only flush the Three Ps – Poo, Pee and (toilet) Paper. Everything else, including wipes – even if they’re marked flushable – should be put in the bin.

“Some wipes even contain non-biodegradable plastics, which can take decades to disintegrate.”

The partnerships reflect the shared interest between Plunket, councils and water utilities to support the community and do the right thing for the environment.

“We know thousands of New Zealanders rely on Plunket to provide topical and relevant information and advice to help them to support their families and communities, and we are very pleased to partner with Watercare and play a part in one day eradicating fatbergs from New Zealand pipes,” Ms Ferreira said.

Watercare is an Auckland Council organisation and New Zealand’s largest water utility while Wellington Water is owned by the Hutt, Porirua, Upper Hutt and Wellington city councils and Greater Wellington Regional Council. Both organisations aim to provide safe and efficient water and wastewater services.

0 Comments Posted by Kate Kauri on 18 February 2019


Connection to whakapapa

Source: Ministry for Children

Connection to whakapapa | Oranga Tamariki—Ministry for Children

A sense of belonging and a connection with whānau can be crucial for a child in care.

Published on
15 Feb 2019

GeneralCaregiver news

That’s how Jodie Treanor, in the position of Kairaranga-a-whānau in Greymouth Oranga Tamariki, knows the difference she is making is positive, tangible, and long-term.

Kairaranga-a-whānau is a role that looks intensively into a child’s background and whakapapa, researching family links for suitable caregivers for a young person that cannot stay at home.
Jodie began as one of the first in this type of position. She researches family trees, tracking down distant whānau in the hope of forging new family connections.
“Our tamariki deserve loving stable homes, and within the family, whānau, hapu or iwi, we can make sure that any care placement is in the best interest of the child,” says Jodie.

“It’s important children have a sense of belonging”
Upper South region, Kairaranga (Senior Advisor) Louise Heke

Support for whānau links growing
In the Upper South region, Kairaranga (Senior Advisor) Louise Heke has seen the difference that hui-a-whānau have made. Families who have worked with the Kairaranga-a-whānau role are less likely to come back into the system.
“A partnership with family is the best. It’s important children have a sense of belonging, and it’s an empowering position to be able to enable families to engage like this. To be able to implement what our ancestors wanted, what our grandparents fought for,” Louise says.

Change through dedication
Jodie says she feels very lucky to do what she does. 
“The Kairaranga-a-whānau role represents a shift in the organisation, recognising our past ways of working didn’t speak to Māori Tikanga.
“There’s still some stuff that needs to change, but the change is tangible. It’s really encouraging and exciting.”
“Whānau support is more crucial than ever, says Chief Social Worker Grant Bennett.
“Mentors might move away or change jobs, but whānau is for life,” he said.
“A common theme for children who do well in care and have good outcomes in life is there’s one person who really has their back. If we can find that amongst whānau, that relationship has longevity.”

Extracts from this story originally appeared on


Plunket re-opens Manurewa centre – Poutokomanawa

Source: New Zealand Plunket Society

After a significant make-over, Plunket’s Manurewa Family Centre re-opens today to provide a welcoming, warm space for local families and whānau.

Renamed Poutokomanawa, the centre aims to provide a safe place where whānau can relax and meet other parents, attend Plunket clinics and ask questions about the health or wellbeing of their family.

About 60 people attended the re-opening, including Plunket Chief Executive Amanda Malu. “What Plunket has achieved here in Manurewa is part of our wider strategy to engage and work more closely with communities and to better meet their specific needs in ways and times that suit them,” Ms Malu says.

“This means Plunket is adapting, collaborating and innovating, so it is better positioned to make the difference of a lifetime in the first 1000 days of the lives of all children and tamariki, no matter where they live.

“It is really evident here that we have placed the needs of whānau at the very centre of what we have done. I am really heartened by that.”

Project leader and Plunket Community Development Manager Clare Green says the project began in 2017 and involved Plunket working in partnership with Auckland Council’s The Southern Initiative and local whānau, who have given considerable input.

“We wanted to make sure local whānau engaged with us and told us what they needed in our centre. We’re really pleased with the result and the input whānau gave. We do hope they will feel welcome and find the centre a respite from some of the challenges many face in our community.”

Poutokomanawa, which means the heart pole at the centre of the whānau, has a new community kitchen, large deck and entrance ramp, a revamped interior layout and will soon have a new playground. Local whānau have also created a large interior mural.

It has been a significant investment by Plunket with the support of some key funders – the NZCT (New Zealand Community Trust) and the Ted Manson Foundation, which funded the kitchen and playground.

Mr Manson says he wanted to support Plunket’s work in Manurewa as he became familiar with the community’s complexities and challenges while doing research with Police and other community services.

“I know it takes a village to raise a child and that for this to happen you need a hub for the village – what Plunket is aiming to create here is that hub. I think it’s going to be a special place for families in South Auckland and am proud to be associated with it,” he says.

The Southern Initiative’s Social Intrapreneur Angie Tangaere says Plunket was courageous in choosing a whānau-led design process for the centre, placing family and community at the centre of the process.

Ms Tangaere says the project has revealed that lots of parenting takes place outside the home in Manurewa creating an opportunity for both Council and Plunket to do more to support these families with the facilities they have available.

Local families, whānau and tamariki are welcome at Poutokomanawa anytime during normal business hours.

See the video about Poutokomanawa’s re-design process.

0 Comments Posted by Plunket on 14 February 2019


NZ Mental Health Will Worsen If Dope Legalised

Source: Family First

Media Release 14 February 2019 
Family First NZ says that the latest study on the effects of marijuana prove that New Zealand would be foolish to legalise marijuana in any way, and that the illegality of the drug and other drugs is vital as we fight the devastation its use causes on both the users, their families, and society in general.

The study, published in the latest edition of JAMA Psychiatry summarised 11 studies comprising 23,317 individuals. The research said, “the high prevalence of adolescents consuming cannabis generates a large number of young people who could develop depression and suicidality attributable to cannabis. This is an important public health problem and concern.”

This is consistent with the Christchurch Health and Development Study research which has shown that the use of cannabis was associated with increased risks of a number of adverse outcomes including: educational delay; welfare dependence; increased risks of psychotic symptoms; major depression; increased risks of motor vehicle accidents; increased risks of tobacco use; increased risks of other illicit drug use; and respiratory impairment. These effects were most evident for young (under 18-year-old) users and could not be explained by social demographic and contextual factors associated with cannabis use. Regular or heavy cannabis use was associated with an increased risk of using other illicit drugs, abusing or becoming dependent upon other illicit drugs, and using a wider variety of other illicit drugs.

Research led by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales (including New Zealand researchers) analysed results of three large, long-running studies from Australia and New Zealand involving nearly 3,800 people. Teenagers who start smoking cannabis daily before the age of 17 are seven times more likely to commit suicide, the study found.

Colorado toxicology reports show the percentage of adolescent suicide victims testing positive for marijuana has increased since the legalisation of marijuana. This disturbing trend is, unfortunately, not surprising, as daily marijuana use among youth who begin before the age of 17 significantly increases the risk of suicide attempts.

“A sensible drug policy should recognise three pillars – similar to the successful approach towards SmokeFree NZ

  • supply reduction – target the dealers and suppliers
  • demand reduction – promote a drug-free culture
  • harm reduction – ensure addiction services & support are available for those who genuinely want to quit. The primary purpose is not to keep users using, but reduce and help them exit drug use.

A smart arrest policy can both provide a societal stamp of disapproval and provide an opportunity to intervene and stop the progression of use. Keeping marijuana illegal through an appropriate application of the laws that cater for ‘youthful indiscretions’ and which focus on supply and dealers is as much a public safety policy as it is a public health policy,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“But at a time when New Zealand’s mental health system is bursting at the seams, we should go no further and legitimise a mind-altering product which will simply add to social harm? It’s patently obvious to most people that legalisation will increase its use, and harm.”

“Drug use is a major health issue, and that’s why the role of the law is so important. This is not a ‘war on drugs’ – this is a defence of our brains and mental well-being. People should always come before profits.””

If the government is in to a ‘well-being’ budget, legalising marijuana should be nowhere on the agenda.


Almost 84 Years Married – World’s Longest Married Couple In NZ?

Source: Family First

Media Release 12 February 2019
For the fourth year running, Family First New Zealand has presented an Award for the Longest Married Couple in New Zealand and the New Zealand couple who won the previous three annual awards may not only be NZ’s longest married couple again this year, but the world’s longest married couple.

“New Zealand couple JERAM & GANGA RAVJI (below) who have won the award since 2016 will celebrate 84 years of marriage this April, and both will turn 103 years old in May and June respectively. That is an incredible feat. Based on a response from Guinness World Records, we also believe it is the world record for a married couple who are both alive,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

The longest married couple in the US celebrated their 83rd wedding anniversary in September 2018. Canada’s longest married couple celebrated their 80th wedding anniversary in 2016 before the husband died.

“This is an opportunity to promote marriage and honour couples who have done the ‘hard yards’. Marriage is a great institution but it requires love and commitment, hard work, and community support. We want to celebrate with couples who are setting the example for younger married couples just starting out. The Ravjis deserve to be honoured,” says Mr McCoskrie.

The NZ winners are being recognised on Valentine’s Day 2019, which coincides with National Marriage Week which is the second week of February each year. The award has previously included flowers, chocolates and a professional photo sitting with the Ravji’s extended family which includes 6 children, 15 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.

We asked them how to make a strong marriage that lasts. Ganga said that in a long marriage there’s been lots of sacrifices, and she’s concerned that the young ones can’t tolerate anything and can’t make sacrifices. They have learnt to tolerate each other. She said that in every life, God’s given good and the bad and you have to work through it. They’ve had a long life and they’ve always had their ups and downs and it hasn’t been a bed of roses – lots of tragedies – but you have to live with it, and work through it. Their parents instilled in them ‘this is the way to do it and this is what you have to do’, and they listened to their parents – they never questioned them. The parents gave them advice and they just followed it, even if they didn’t like it. They knew that their parents knew better than them and wanted the best for them.

Due to personal circumstances, the Ravjis have declined any media interviews – which we are respecting.


Photo (below) shows Jeram and Ganga Ravji receiving their prizes from Family First NZ in 2016 – which included a professional sitting for a family portrait with their extended family.

84 years of marriage in April 2019.

They will both turn 103 years old this year in May and June respectively. In April they will celebrate their 84th wedding anniversary. Together they have 6 children, and 15 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren, most of whom are living in Auckland.


State of the Nation report shows little improvement for children

Source: Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) welcomes the The Salvation Army’s annual State of the Nation report “Are You Well? Are We Safe?” released today, which provides an overview of how New Zealand is doing for the wellbeing of its citizens. The report has a particular focus on children, including comments on child poverty, care and protection as well as educational achievement.

The latest report shows incremental policy changes over the past few years have done little toward providing the substantial improvements which current and future generations of children need, to have equitable opportunities and to sustain good outcomes. In particular there are still large gaps for Māori children who are disproportionately represented across multiple statistics, including youth offending, education, and those in state care, compared to non-Māori.

CPAG Co-Convenor Janfrie Wakim says, “It seems clear that there have been no real successes in ameliorating the social inequities and associated health issues that are experienced by families and whānau, and it is critical that a more radical approach is needed to address reform of welfare and justice systems as well as education in Aotearoa.

“Changes need to be robust enough to have longevity, or they risk fragility and failure.”

CPAG says it is vastly concerning to see there been little in the way of change over the past four years in the nature and extent of adult violence toward children, while the number of children in state care has reached the highest ever recorded.

The increased number of children in care is only partially explained by the extension of the age of care from 17 to 18 years.

“It’s critical that we hear from Oranga Tamariki why there should be such an increase,” says Wakim.

“Is it due to changing operational priorities or increased levels of neglect and abuse of children, and are there sufficient resources within the service providers to meet the need?”

The Salvation Army report highlights consistently wide gaps between Maori and non-Maori in terms of social outcomes, a concern highlighted by the United Nations in the recent Universal Periodic Review of how New Zealand is performing on human rights issues. The UN draft outcomes report included a recommendation that New Zealand should “continue to work to enhance the rights of Māori and other indigenous minority groups in New Zealand, and provide increased rehabilitative support for Māori prisoners”.

CPAG says that as a Nation, Aotearoa should be working hard to close these gaps completely over the next 10 years.

New minimum wage legislation, the Winter Energy Payment and the Families Package have been helpful to many who have low incomes, and the report notes a slight reduction in income inequality. However, the picture is uneven, as the reduced food bank demand outcome reported is for the Salvation Army alone while other charities, such as the Auckland City Mission, report figures that show demand increasing.

“While things may have improved for those on low incomes in paid work, little has changed for people who have need of a benefit, or for their children,” says Wakim.

“The Government has placed a commendable focus on the interests of low-income working families, through recent increases to the Working for Families maximum payment threshold and the minimum wage. But many of our very worst-off children – those in families whose income is primarily from benefits, remain in severe hardship.”

CPAG believes a meaningful reduction in child poverty rates is not attainable unless the harmful inadequacy of benefit levels is addressed, and the application of harmful sanctions is abolished.

“Budget 2019 should prioritise at least a 20 per cent increase in all core benefits, and a removal of the paid work criteria from the portion of Working for Families that children supported by benefits are currently denied,” says Wakim.


Back-to-school costs: A looming spiral of debt

Source: Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)

It’s my daughter’s first day at intermediate and my stomach is in knots. I know she’ll be ok. She knows how to slap on a fake-it-till-you-make-it grin and step out into the world. But this tactic isn’t going to work for me.

I’ve sourced second-hand uniform items, I’ve been donated stationery items and I’m still wracked with anxiety at somehow having to pay several hundred dollars for her uniform, shoes, fees and activities. And let’s not even talk about Bring Your Own Device! At this point I’m reminded of that fortunately-unfortunately campfire game. Fortunately, her dad will pay half of these costs. Unfortunately, her brother is going on school camp this year, which will add another $170 to his school costs. Fortunately, he doesn’t want to play sport this term. Unfortunately, his school bag just broke. This is the way of it, of course, single parents on low incomes are always treading water. The problem is that when we start the year facing several hundred dollars of costs, well, it’s almost impossible to keep your head up.

So I was relieved when I saw the words “we may be able to help with back to school costs” on the Work and Income website the other day. I clicked on it and my smile turned wry. This “help” is a loan. I meet the income test for this loan, but there is a sole parent asset limit of $1,794.51. Aside from being an enigmatically arbitrary number (that fifty one cents!), that amount is a paltry savings buffer for a sole parent. All you need is your car to break down or emergency dental treatment, and that’s it. You’re down to absolutely nothing. And when you’re destitute, debt is the last thing you can can afford. So, thanks but no thanks.

I’m one of the lucky ones. My mum is helping me out this year. It takes a village to pay for a child. But wait, isn’t that what we’re already doing in New Zealand? Isn’t our compulsory education supposed to be free? It strikes me that what I’m dealing with here is a struggle to find an individual solution to a collective problem. National MP Nicola Willis recently suggested lengthening the school term as a solution to parents’ struggle to fund/find childcare over the summer holidays. Putting aside the question of how effective her solution might be, I want to acknowledge that at least she’s recognised the possibility of a broad solution. I just think her question needs a bit of reframing. Because the “problem” of the cost of childcare or schooling can be taken out of this deficit model. The cost of going back to school isn’t just my “problem”, the way affordable childcare isn’t just my “problem”. This isn’t about keeping parents working or staving off the spectre of debt. This is about how we collectively find ways to give our kids what they need to thrive. Education is a social cost because we are all investing in our shared prosperity.

I asked my kids what they thought the cost of going to school should be. “Well, the thing is,” said my nine-year-old with his characteristic sagacity, “that money for books and shoes and tablets … It doesn’t go to the school.” Which is a good point. And begs the question of why we are willing to fund our MPs’ travel allowances, but not our kids’ stationery. Not to mention that if school costs were funded by taxpayers, I’d be very surprised if my daughter’s school could get away with charging $75 for a hideous pair of tartan skorts without the national media furore that it deserves.

The question is, how can we save low-income families from the looming spiral of debt caused by school costs? One answer to this question could be something like the Back to School Bonus Australia phased out in 2016. Yet any targeted grant, like Work and Income’s loan scheme, is individualised poverty stop-gapping. The thing is, every child in Aotearoa should be able to start their school year with the books, clothes and equipment they need. We can answer the same question by asking another one. We can ask how we can give our kids what they need to flourish at school. How can we make sure they all have what they need to be able to learn well, for their own future and our collective future growth? How can we can support the wellbeing of all New Zealand children so their futures are open to possibilities?


Plunket welcomes ban on smoking with kids in cars

Source: New Zealand Plunket Society

Plunket welcomes the announcement that the Government will be banning smoking in vehicles carrying children under 18 years of age, but says it will require the support of communities to help parents and caregivers to give up smoking.

Jane O’Malley, Plunket’s Chief Nurse, said the evidence is overwhelming that exposure to second-hand smoke is a major risk to children’s health.

“Ongoing education programmes and increased support services are key to effecting long-lasting change. We are pleased that punitive enforcement measures will be a last resort, because this approach is likely to have negative consequences and perpetuate inequities for the most vulnerable families,” says Dr O’Malley. 

Second-hand smoke has been linked to many illnesses experienced by children including respiratory infections, asthma attacks, sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI), glue ear and more. Young children have no way of influencing drivers or adult passengers if they are travelling in a vehicle with a smoker.

Dr O’Malley says Plunket works in partnership with families and whānau to connect them with services that will support them to become smoke-free.

“As Plunket nurses go into the homes of between 85-90% of all newborns and their families and whānau we are in a unique position to see their home environments. From this we know that 23% of the children Plunket see live with a smoker in the house when Plunket first visits them.”

She says the statistics are worse for those living in high deprivation, with 40% of children living with a smoker in the family.

Smoking is highly addictive and people need support and education to help them to give up. “It’s important that there are a range of initiatives aimed at improving the health outcomes for tamariki and whānau, as well as supporting parents to be the best they can be.”

0 Comments Posted by Plunket on 11 February 2019