Wanganui Chronicle

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Giving Kiwi children a good start in life is a priority for this Government - and so it should be.

The wellbeing of young children and their families has been a focus of our spending.

From July 1, all children under 13 became eligible for free GP visits and, in addition, we have almost doubled investment in early childhood education.

National is also supporting children to achieve great results at school through the KickStart breakfast in schools programme - more than five million breakfasts have been served in schools since we expanded the programme in 2013.

Children in the WanganuiManawatu region are benefiting from this and in term 3 this year 2448 children participated in the initiative.

In April, we extended New Zealand's paid-parental leave scheme by two weeks, to 16 weeks, and we are going to extend it by another two weeks next year.

In a world where workplace and family arrangements often change, the Government continues to support parents to be there for their child at the critical, very early stages of life.

That is why, from April next year we are extending the eligibility of paid-parental leave to nonstandard workers such as seasonal employees, and to other primary carers like formal adoptive parents, grandparents and whangai parents.

Earlier this year we also agreed to work with Act leader David Seymour to review the support provided in situations of multiple birth, disability and preterm births.

While assistance is already available to parents of multiplebirth children and to parents of children with disabilities, we found there was an opportunity for the paid-parental leave scheme to provide more assistance for parents of preterm babies. So this week we announced an extension to paidparental leave to eligible parents of babies born earlier than expected.

National is certainly committed to supporting parents and children so our kids get the best start to life.

Of course, there are plenty of social organisations, groups and, indeed, individuals who are working hard, often in a voluntary capacity, to make life better for children and their families.

A couple of weeks ago I met an education interest group who are putting together a submission to the education select committee with respect their inquiry into dyslexic and dyspraxic students, and those on the autism spectrum.

This is a very complex topic and an important educational issue, and I am heartened that we have some dedicated and capable people putting together a submission. There is an opportunity for anyone to contribute to the work of this select committee by making a submission to Parliament by October 2, and I would encourage you to do so if you have any experience in this field.

Giving children a good start in life must be a priority for all of us.