Ensuring the best start for our tamariki is a priority for me in everything I do. And so in Budget 2016, my first budget as an MP, I looking for the Government to make a real investment in the wellbeing of our tamariki.
This budget comes at a critical time. When over 300,000 kids are living in poverty, when Māori unemployment is up to a staggering 12.8%, when hundreds of families are living in cars, garages, parks and on the streets, we know that the government must provide leadership to ensure that every whānau has a warm, dry and affordable home, and a sufficient income from meaningful and secure work.
There are also small and practical but important steps that Government can take now that will make a real difference for our tamariki. Here are just two cost-effective solutions that I hope the government adopts in this budget.
Feed the Kids
Thousands of tamariki go to school hungry every day. One child in Aotearoa whose education is suffering because they haven’t had breakfast or lunch is one too many.
I’m proud to follow in Metiria’s and Hone’s footsteps by continuing their work for the Greens on the Feed the Kids kaupapa – I will keep pushing this initiative and work to gain the support for it to be implemented.
In this budget the Government could support schools to feed kids so that they can make the most of their potential. By funding the Ministry of Education to establish a school food fund for every 1-4 decile school, and other schools based on need, the Government can ensure that hungry kids are fed lunch for the relatively low cost of approx $11m p.a.
There is huge popular support for this measure, it’s targeted, it’s not that expensive, sector groups support it – it’s an idea whose time has come.
I urge the Government to put politics aside and use this opportunity to ensure that our tamariki are well fed and able to learn in school.
Last month I hosted a seminar at Parliament on tamariki wellbeing with Whakawhetū – the agency working to prevent Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI). The seminar reinforced the seriousness and urgency of this problem. Aotearoa has the highest SUDI rate in the industrialised world, and it is the main cause of post neonatal mortality in infants up to one year old. About 60 percent of SUDI deaths are Māori babies.
In the 2014 election the Greens launched a popular policy that would provide every new baby with a special welcome package to help in the first few weeks of life. This would include their first bed – a lovingly woven wahakura, filled with essentials for a baby’s first weeks.
This wahakura welcome is a practical response to the needs of babies for a separate safe sleeping environment, and has been shown to reduce cases of SUDI.
Based on the Finnish Maternity Package, the Wahakura Welcome Pack could be universally available to the approximately 60,000 babies born each year in New Zealand.
The Government could adopt this common sense policy for a total of $15m, ensuring all our tamariki have what they need to thrive in the first few months when they are at their most vulnerable.
Investing in our kids is the best investment you can make. It upholds the mana of our whānau, its good economics, and it ensures that we have a country where everyone is able to contribute their skills and talents to our collective wellbeing. In this budget I’m looking for the Government to invest in the future of our tamariki.
What do you want to see in Budget 2016?