Prime Minister’s weekly column
For the past four-and-a-half years, the National-led Government has been addressing the issue of the hardship low-income families face. We have taken measures taken across a number of different areas, including health, education, housing and social development. In Budget 2013, which we delivered last month, we announced a series of additional…….. initiatives intended to help the most vulnerable New Zealanders, including:
* $100 million for a new home insulation programme. Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes will target low-income households, and those with children, elderly people or people with pre-existing health conditions. The programme is expected to insulate around 46,000 homes.
* More than $21.4 million to fight rheumatic fever. This will go towards helping local communities and health providers work together for at-risk children, and to achieve our goal of reducing the incidence of the disease by two thirds – to 1.4 cases per 100,000 people – by June 2017.
* $41 million for targeted early childhood education. This investment will go towards supporting vulnerable children into early childhood education, who might otherwise miss out on getting the best possible start in life.
* Low and no-interest loan options. For families who are struggling with huge debt, we want to work in partnership with financial institutions and non-government organisations (NGOs) to explore alternative sources of finance for those on low incomes.
Coming on the back of these efforts, this Government is taking a further step to provide help to those who need it most: we are teaming up with Fonterra and Sanitarium to expand the KickStart Breakfast programme. Currently the programme provides a breakfast of Weet-Bix and milk two mornings a week for children in decile one to four schools. This will now be increased to five mornings a week, with a view to gradually rolling the programme out to all those schools wanting and needing the programme. While this Government believes parents have the primary responsibility for providing their children with the basics, the fact remains that some children are going to school hungry and therefore not in good shape to learn. The expansion of this programme is intended to strike a balance between looking after children in genuine need, against creating dependency. We see it as the best way forward in our plan to build a brighter future for all New Zealand children and their families.