Children's Convention Monitoring Group releases report to better child wellbeing Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Source: NZ Herald, 11 April 2018

A new report has laid out the way forward for our children.

The Children's Convention Monitoring Group released a report this morning called Getting It Right: Building Blocks, highlighting where New Zealand is making progress and where action is needed.

The key recommendations comprised taking children and their views into account when new policies are developed, supporting children's participation in decisions that affect them, ensuring children's privacy and best interests are considered when collecting their information and using the Children's Convention to develop a plan for children and their wellbeing.

Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft said the Government promised 25 years ago to do better for all children when it signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Now New Zealand needed to walk towards that goal.

The convention is a human rights treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children.

Becroft described past work on child wellbeing as "ad hoc" and this report offered a coherent plan.

"If we're going to mean business to do better for New Zealand children then this report says we have to put in place some key building blocks to get there.

"These are foundations. If they are not in place welfare is not going to make any real progress ... We're better than this.

"We can do so much better for our children."

There are 1.1 million children and young people under 18 years old in Aotearoa. Around 20 per cent are not doing well and 10 per cent are really struggling with issues ranging from abuse and neglect, material deprivation and poor health to difficulties learning at school.

In 2016 the United Nations gave New Zealand 47 urgent recommendations to improve child wellbeing, including addressing negative outcomes for Māori and Pasifika children, reducing high rates of violence, abuse and neglect. This report would address that, Becroft said.

Becroft urged the Government to pay attention to the recommendations. He expected the report to be part of a Government group formulating a work plan as "nothing less will do". He did not know how much it would cost but believed Kiwi kids had been underinvested in for 30 years and it was now time to remedy that.

"Recent initiatives such as the Child Poverty Reduction Bill and the proposed Child Wellbeing Strategy are positive steps towards improving the lives of children in New Zealand.

"We need to ensure these are not one-off actions."

Minister for Children Tracey Martin said they were broadly supportive of the report and would assess the viability of the recommendations.

"The Ministry of Social Development is already working on key recommendations including co-ordination, training and tools, children's participation and raising awareness. MSD will deliver an online Child Impact Assessment tool in the near future.

"NZ is committed to major progress on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child."

Voyce Whakarongo Mai chief executive Dr Ainsleigh Cribb-Su'a expressed excitement over the report.

"It explicitly implores the Government to mandate the incorporation of a child impact analyses on all legislation and policy development processes.

"Seeking out children's views on service design is essential. It is their future that we are designing, let's incorporate their views in all that we develop."

Child Poverty Action Group spokesman Frank Hogan applauded the comprehensive report and believed New Zealand was heading in the right direction. However he wanted to see more emphasis on the "nitty gritty" that was CPAG's four principles of food and shelter, health and education, security and safety plus families having adequate income.

The Children's Convention Monitoring Group is made up of the Office of the Children's Commissioner, the Human Rights Commission, Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa, Save the Children New Zealand and Unicef NZ.

The recommendations

Develop robust systems and processes to ensure that legislation incorporates, and is consistent with, the principles and provisions of the Children's Convention.

Develop a national strategy that implements the Children's Convention. Make sure it is resourced, it benefits all children and it is developed with key stakeholders, including children, young people and tangata whenua.

Ensure that the planning process for a Child Wellbeing Strategy embeds children's rights, in particular the four General Principles. Ensure the Strategy is co-designed with children and young people and tangata whenua.

Ensure the Children's Convention Deputy Chief Executives Group has the adequate authority and resources to fulfill it's obligations to drive the cross-agency implementation of the Convention.

Ensure all public servants receive training on child rights and are equipped with the knowledge and tools needed to carry out quality child impact analyses.

Embed the use of the Child Impact Assessment tool into the legislative and policy development process.

Develop a child rights and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)-compliant data infrastructure that generates high quality disaggregated data which is used to inform policies, legislation and practices.

Ensure the collection, storage and sharing of information about children is consistent with their privacy and information rights, views and best interests.

Transparently and regularly track and measure resource allocation and spending on child rights and wellbeing. Assess the impact of investments for children in line with the principles and provisions of the Convention.

Amend the Public Finance Act to take into consideration specified or targeted spending that will uphold children's rights to ensure their wellbeing.

Sufficiently resource the Office of the Children's Commissioner to effectively fulfill its mandate and functions to monitor and advance child rights.

Government agencies setting policy and designing services for children should systematically seek out and consider children's views in decision making using a child-centred, rights-based approach.

Resource the promotion of children's rights education in schools and raise awareness of the Children's Convention across all sectors.

Table in Parliament the Concluding Observations from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Government responses to them.

Increase compliance with the Children's Convention by withdrawing reservations and acceding to the Communications Procedure Optional Protocol.