4 Mar 2018

'Children's views add richness, and we need to be listening'

11:08 am on 4 March 2018

As families across the country come together to celebrate National Children's Day, the Children's Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft says more children's voices need to be heard.

Stock photo

Stock photo Photo: 123RF

"Children's views add richness, and we need to be listening," Mr Becroft said.

Quarter of the population is under the age of 18 and within those 1.1 million, 70 percent are doing well, 20 percent are really struggling, and 10 percent are even worse off, he said.

"All adverse life outcomes lead back towards childhood disadvantage and childhood poverty.

"It's not causative but it's associated with all the wrong statistics in health, housing, education, child abuse and neglect," he said.

"The stress of that environment certainly doesn't make it easy to provide well for our kids."

Some positive things were happening though.

Child poverty legislation is before the House and for the first time there is a commitment to a well-being strategy for all New Zealand children - "I welcome that", Mr Becroft said.

But although they were good first steps there were particular priorities that need to be addressed, he said.

"Keeping kids involved in education because that's hugely protective and beneficial for all children and too many of our kids are disengaged with education," he said.

"I think youth mental health and services for... those with neurodevelopment disabilities is crucial.

"And I think we have to do better at really prioritising and targeting our Māori young children.

And that's not all Māori young children but too many are in the 10 and 20 percent. And if New Zealand's really going to be a country where all children thrive and flourish then we've got to have some targeted interventions for Māori children in our midst who are really struggling," he said.

"I think that's just inescapable."

There was still an "astoundingly high" child poverty rate, Child Poverty Action Group spokesperson Lisa Wood said.

There are still issues with child well-being but the new child poverty legislation and well-being strategy would be "incredibly important in making a dent in the bad statistics", she said.

It's developing the strategy and want to see partnerships with communities to see what was needed and how best to meet the needs.

"We're really focusing now on solutions and it's communities, families and whanau that are the rich sources of knowledge. And it's going to be the harnessing of that knowledge that's going to make a difference."

The government needed to form those partnerships, she said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs