Monday, July 21, 2014

Greens Make Kids A Priority Again!


Children have always been a major priority for the Green Party and it says something about the priorities of the current Government when child poverty, child neglect and family violence continue to be huge issues.

Today Metiria Turei announced the the last of our Party's three major election priorities and it focuses very heavily on an area that will make a huge difference to children and struggling families. By extending the 20 hours free early childhood education to two year olds it recognizes the financial pressures on families with young children.

An OECD study in 2010 revealed that New Zealand working families were having to spend 28% of their net income on childcare and this wasn't helped by the Government's $400 million cut to early childhood education. This gutting of the Early childhood budget reversed the attempt by Labour to bring the funding up to a similar level of other OECD countries: it drove up costs for families, forced many centres to close and made 100% registered and qualified teachers in centres unaffordable.

The Government also restricted choice for families when community based provision suffered the most from the cuts and many Pasifika communities that should have received the most support found themselves amongst the worst affected. What has also been concerning is the Government's support for corporate care and the subsidies provided for the likes of Kidicorp to set up in lower decile communities. Profit focused early childhood centres often maximize profits by saving costs on wages and manipulating the system for their own ends. This means commercial centres do not see having experienced and qualified staff as a priority.

Research shows that the benefits of early childhood education are dependent on the quality of the teachers and there is currently a minimum of 50% qualified staff and a cap of 80% for funding. There would be an outcry if hospitals were staffed in a similar way and yet the first years of a child's life are crucial for their future development. Skimping on the early years will actually have negative economic impacts in the future and the World Bank strongly supports investing in young children.

The Green Party will restore the goal of having 100% qualified staff in all centres and kindergartens and ensure the funding supports that. $297 million will be the initial cost and this will grow to $367 million over four years and will hopefully address the damage done by this Government and build a much stronger early childhood sector for the future. Every $1 we invest in early childhood education provides a $7 return, the investment is a no brainer. Our children and our families need and deserve this support and party voting Green will make it happen.


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