Metiria Turei is currently on a study tour in Europe, looking at green social enterprise and how we can deliver better social services.
This is Olga Tarsalainen, Communications officer for Kela, the Finnish Social Insurance Institution. She manages the comms and production of the Maternity Package, the box of baby gear available to every parent with a new born. This maternity package was the inspiration for our own Pepi Pod policy – Wahakura.
It was amazing to see it first hand, a beautifully printed safe sleeping box filled to overflowing with everything a baby needs for the first year of life and some of what the parents need too. There were 54 items in the box, from a mattress and a snow suit to nipple cream and condoms. Everything is brand new and beautiful. When you take the lid off, it really is like a present. A family receiving one of these couldn’t help but feel tremendous excitement about the new baby and that the baby deserves the best of everything.
And that’s what Olga said “Every baby deserves the best, the best possible start for a great life. We value every baby born.”
How does it work? Remember Finland has a similar population (5 million) and a similar birthrate to NZ. Every mother of a newborn is entitled to either a one off payment of 140 Euros or a baby box, once she has completed a specific number of medical checks while pregnant. The box is worth much much more so most first time parents choose the box – about 40,000 are given away each year. Parents will often take the payment if it’s their second or more baby. The boxes are part of the welfare provision (e.g. maternity, paternity and child benefits) not health, although the reason why they were developed was because of the risk of sudden infant death. Finland now has one of the lowest rates in the world.
I asked “Do people not worry that a family will sell the items and keep the cash?”
“No, and anyway, it’s their box”
“Do you not target only those who need it?”
“Why would we? We want every baby to have what they need”
The box itself is revealed in a media event every year or so, when they change the design and the contents. This year’s theme is animals and they hold a competition for the design. Everyone apparently is super keen to see the colour and design of the snow suit. It’s national news. The maternity package has become a community owned celebration of love and life, a dedication to a new baby’s first year and a commitment to valuing that baby and its family.
There were over 1,200 babies born in Dunedin last year. That’s 1,200 babies who could have had access to a great start to life. The Greens Wahakura policy includes a flax woven sleeping pod, bedding, blankets, sheets, a towel, clothes, bibs, beanies, socks and reusable nappies. We hope to make a positive change to newborn children and their parents, but we’re working against a Government who has managed to make a habit out of ducking responsibility when it comes to helping all children to a better start. This is the Government after all, who voted against our Feed the Kids bill.