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Govt cash for at-risk young

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 3/05/2017

The government says next month's budget will include a $321 million package aimed at society's most vulnerable, including nearly $70m for at-risk children.

The package, over four years, would spend money on early interventions "to help the most at-risk New Zealanders to lead better lives, become more independent and cost taxpayers less in the long run", Social Investment Minister Amy Adams said on Wednesday.

A key part of the 14 initiatives in the package was $68.8m for children with behavioural issues, communication problems or a challenging family environment, she said.

"Without support, these children won't learn and participate as well as others - so we want to help set them up for success, rather than waiting for them to fail," Ms Adams said.

More than $28m will pay for at least 570 more places in the Ministry of Social Development's Family Start programme, bringing the number to more than 7100 - where social workers visit high-needs families with babies to provide practical advice and support.

Minister for Children Anne Tolley says it's important to intervene early and target support to families whose children are at risk of poor education, health and social outcomes.

Prime Minister Bill English, who was with Ms Adams when the announcement was made, said the help was targeted at the families which needed it most.

"We can make a bigger difference by using better tools," he told reporters.

"We want to make sure the kids who most need it get the benefits."

OTHER BUDGET SPENDING ON CHILDREN:

* $34.7m over four years to expand services for children under eight with severe behavioural difficulties. The number receiving specialist behavioural support should increase from around 5000 to around 6000 annually.

* $6m over four years to support three and four year olds with oral language difficulties.

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