22nd August 2012 Posted in: Press Releases
“There is much we can learn from the Netherlands about how to achieve better results for children in New Zealand,” said Barbara Lambourn, UNICEF NZ National Advocacy Manager, about the launch of The Netherlands Study.
The report commissioned by Every Child Counts,* investigates policies and practices in the Netherlands that achieve similar results for children at half the amount of the much higher costing Scandinavian countries.
Ms Lambourn noted that, although there are clear differences between The Netherlands and New Zealand, there are many ideas in this report which are worth considering. Many aspects of The Netherlands Study support the findings of the recent UNICEF NZ Briefing Paper What Will It Take where 80 NGOs, in response to the government’s Green Paper consultation, endorsed a unified statement about what is needed to change the outcomes for children in New Zealand.
“An overall culture of respect for children and of the caring responsibilities of parents, combined with a universal approach to supporting parents, is a feature of life in The Netherlands. NGOs agreed in What Will it Take that this is something New Zealand should aspire to do better for our children,” Ms Lambourn said.
The Netherlands Study recommends a campaign to; change our attitudes to children; place value on the role of parenting; and show the value of investing in children. It points to greater universal entitlements and a long standing social and political consensus about the importance of families and children. It determines roles for parents, communities and the State.
Ms Lambourn said, “The UNICEF Briefing Paper also makes it clear that we must invest more in children - The Netherlands invests almost twice as much as we do. There is no bargain basement solution. If we fail to invest at the right time we pay for it down the track to put right what we get wrong in the early years.”
A study last year by Infometrics for Every Child Counts counted the cost of child poverty to be in the region of $8b each year. The same report also showed Dutch citizens, like many in Europe, have higher personal income tax rates than in New Zealand and generally higher levels of support from the State.
“Parent education and support are accepted features of family life and are delivered widely in The Netherlands,” said Ms Lambourn. “There’s concentration on early childhood education for disadvantaged children with childcare subsidies available to all working families with more generous support for low-income families. There’s also support and encouragement for community initiatives and a role for local government and the education system in supporting good outcomes for children.”
In the Netherlands there is also an emphasis on prevention of abuse and neglect and comprehensive support for families rather than judgement and punishment. The Netherlands Study points to a reporting code that clearly states that “the interest of the child comes before the privacy of the family”. Mandatory Reporting is currently not a feature of the Dutch child protection system but, like many other countries, the pros and cons are being considered.
Paid parental leave is also longer and better paid in the Netherlands, plus there is wide public acceptance of out-of-school care for children of working parents. The Dutch government invests in welfare and generous social housing assistance that help to ensure a minimum standard of living for all its citizens. There is also strong support for teacher education and education designed to be co-ordinated with parental support, youth care, health and other services.
Ms Lambourn added, “We are hopeful that the Government’s White Paper, due in November, will take note of these findings and of our Briefing Paper and that the Children’s Action Plan will not just tinker round the edges or paper over cracks, but be bold enough to have a vision for children in New Zealand as citizens with full rights.
“The Government has a wealth of information and ideas to get it right for children, but we now need cross party accord, political courage and action to make the changes needed for the long term. Children have only one childhood and cannot wait any longer.”
*Every Child Counts is a collaboration of child focused NGOs of which UNICEF is a core member.
Click here to view the full report TheNetherlandsStudy.pdf