Best Place in the World to be a Child

Child Wellbeing Strategy in the making

Sonia Scott, NZCCSS Polocy Advisor

The children’s advocacy sector has long asked for government to develop a cross-government strategy to reduce child poverty. Today there is great potential for this to be realised. The Coalition Government has pledged to reduce rates of child poverty and improve the wellbeing of all children. The newly established Child Wellbeing Unit, based in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, has been charged with the task of drafting a Child Wellbeing Strategy to support these intentions.

NZCCSS Policy Groups, Child and Family, and Impacts of Poverty and Exclusion, recently caught up with representatives of both the Child Wellbeing and Child Poverty Units to find out more about their work and the how the strategy will be developed.

Child poverty and child wellbeing unite

The Child Poverty Reduction Bill sets out a requirement for successive governments to ‘adopt, publish and review’ a child wellbeing strategy. The scope of the strategy is intended to be broad and ambitious, underpinning a proportionate universalist approach. In addition, the strategy has a clear focus on child poverty reduction in line with the Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern’s commitment to reduce child poverty and make New Zealand the best place in the world for all children to live. In her capacity as Minister for Child Poverty Reduction, Prime Minister Ardern, will lead this work jointly with Hon Tracey Martin, Minister for Children.

Who and what will be the focus of the strategy?

The Bill specifically requires the strategy to address:

  • improving the wellbeing of all children
  • improving, as a particular focus, the wellbeing of children with greater needs
  • reducing child poverty and mitigating impacts of child poverty and of socio-economic disadvantage experienced by children and
  •  improving the wellbeing of the core populations of interest to the department [Oranga Tamariki] (namely, children with early risk factors for future statutory involvement, those who the department works with, and care-experienced children).
    (Source: Cabinet paper. Child Wellbeing Unit website)
Preliminary work to support consultation process

Preliminary work to support a consultation process has already begun. The Child Wellbeing Unit has considered key themes emerging from 600 submissions received on the Child Poverty Bill, from existing wellbeing models for example the Living Standards Framework developed by The Treasury and the Whānau Ora outcomes framework, alongside New Zealand’s obligations to ‘Crown-Maori partnership’, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

From all these areas of alignment, and other work, a preliminary approach to a Child Wellbeing Strategy has been prepared which will form part of an initial engagement process.

This preliminary approach will cover five wellbeing domains: safety, security, connectedness, wellness and development, and six initial focus areas for the strategy. These are:

  1. Child poverty is reduced, in line with the Government’s intermediate and ten-year targets
  2. Children experience optimal development in the first 1000 days: safe and positive pregnancy, birth and parenting (conception to around two years)
  3. Children are thriving socially, emotionally and developmentally in the early years (two to six years)
  4. Children are safe and nurtured, in their whānau and their homes
  5. Children’s mental wellbeing is supported
  6. Children are free from racism, discrimination and stigma.

For more information on both the process for developing and consulting on the strategy, see the following Cabinet papers:

Upcoming engagement opportunities

The Child Wellbeing Unit is currently developing a public engagement process that will run to December 2018. Part of this process, will include engagement with children and children’s organisations, and iwi and Māori representatives, as required by legislation. The full range of consultation opportunities will be advised. It is intended the first iteration of the Strategy will be published in 2019.

To receive updates on the Child Wellbeing Strategy and the upcoming engagement opportunities register to be added on the Child Well Being mailing list: Email: cws.subscribe@dpmc.govt.nz

After decades of concern for a group of children growing up in poverty, it’s heartening government at last wants a strategy and a plan to ensure New Zealand is a great place for all children to grow up, leaving no child behind.