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Family-centric approach to child well-being

This week the long-awaited Every Child Counts report was released. It is the result of a study into the role government policy plays in reducing child poverty in the Netherlands – and the results may be surprising to some.

The report was commissioned by Barnardos NZ, Plunket, Save the Children NZ, UNICEF NZ, and Te Kāhui Mana Ririki. The groups came together in an effort to bring a more child-centric focus to governmental policy and planning. However, what the Every Child Counts report found is that the Netherlands takes a family centric approach to policy. The report repeatedly notes that the Netherlands puts a strong emphasis on the importance of the family: the family’s primary role in and responsibility for the well-being of their children; the primacy of family decision making regarding which government services to use, (including freedom of choice in education); and the fact that the Netherlands’ Government sees its main role in supporting child well-being as adopting policies that strengthen families.

Surprisingly, the Herald’s article on the report brushed over this key finding. Much of the article focussed on detailing how the Government could spend more money in an attempt to match the Netherlands’ high child wellness indicators. Their coveraged focussed on raising wages and increasing paid parental leave—just two of several recommendations. 

The placement of the family at the center of policy related to child well-being is not one advocated for enough in New Zealand. Although Māori and Pacific communities are leading the charge in rectifying that. Let’s hope that if policy makers take the time to read the Every Child Counts report, they’ll consider the importance of the family along with whether or not to raise wages and parental leave. 

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