Health Ministry says welfare reforms will harm kids

Official papers show that the National Government’s welfare reforms will harm New Zealand’s most vulnerable children, the Green Party said today.

Papers released under the Official Information Act reveal Health Ministry officials repeatedly warned ministers that the National Government’s benefit sanctions would have “substantial negative impacts on families” which could lead to more child neglect and result in children needing hospital treatment.

“Social Development Minister Paula Bennett persists in saying that her draconian social obligations and benefit sanctions will be good for kids, but these papers prove she was told over and over again that they would actively harm children and their families,” Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said.

“Over several weeks, officials repeatedly expressed deep concerns to ministers about the reforms.  At one stage Health Minister Tony Ryall was asked to try to convince welfare reform ministers to agree to stop the sanctions because of the ‘substantial negative impact”’ they would have on families.

“Officials advised ministers that the Well Child programme would be ‘less effective’ if parents were forced to participate in it, that Paula Bennett’s social obligations threatened the trusting relationship between plunket nurses and families, and that financial sanctions would damage the wellbeing of children.

“Officials said sanctions risked increasing the maltreatment and abuse of children, and could force families to defer doctors’ visits which would see increased numbers of children ending up at emergency departments.

“It is astonishing that, faced with such clear advice about the potential harm to children from these sanctions, and the very real threats to the world-renowned Well Child programme, the Minister is ploughing on with such damaging reforms.

“Ms Bennett should listen to the advice of experts in child health and in child rights and immediately cancel her proposed sanctions in the interest of all the children she will harm as a result of them,” Mrs Turei said.

Link to the OIA papers:

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