WIll PM keep promise?

Children in great need have been let down by the government’s refusal to fund Stand to run its services in Roxburgh.

The closure of the Roxburgh village for vulnerable children has been described as ”desperately sad”.

Yesterday, Stand Children’s Services announced its children’s villages in Roxburgh and Otaki would close.

It would mean the loss of 31 jobs in Roxburgh, about 6% of its population of about 520.

The government has $1 billion to throw into the regional development fund but can’t find $3 million to help vulnerable children and save the jobs of about 6% of the Roxburgh community.

Helping these children and keeping existing jobs would be far better use of the money than anything funded so far.

Stand chief executive Dr Fiona Inkpen said the organisation had been topping up the shortfall in government funding from its own funds for many years but reserves were used up and the organisation would need an extra $3million to keep the villages open.

Dr Inkpen confirmed southern children would be unable to attend the only other South Island Stand village, in Christchurch, as the waiting list was long and only Canterbury children could stay there.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said it was a ”desperately sad” day for the children of the lower South Island.

”Even though I anticipated this news coming today, I still feel physically sick reading it. I’ve got to admit that when we got all the way to the top [Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern] last week, and got turned down, I didn’t see how the village could be saved.”

The closure would be a ”huge blow to Roxburgh”, but he had faith the town would survive.

Clutha Mayor and chairman of Local Government Zone 6 Bryan Cadogan, who played a major role in trying to keep the service, said it would mean the withdrawal of the treatment service for the lower South Island.

”I have contacted other organisations who were supposed to pick up the slack and it was an emphatic ‘no’ – they’re stretched like a violin string.”

The government has $1 billion to fund tertiary education for all students, most of whom don’t need it, but it hasn’t got $3 million for children in desperate need of help.

The Prime Minister keeps saying vulnerable children are one of her priorities.

She made a promise to improve their lives and it’s not too late to keep it.

The Prime Minister stands accused of breaking a promise and there would seem some foundation in the accusation.

Labour campaigned on policies aimed at improving the lives of children and, once elected, the focus on social policy was heavy: pledges to end child poverty, provide affordable housing, change parts of the welfare system, improve health delivery, lift the incomes of the “working poor”.

The Stand Children’s Services Roxburgh children’s village — tasked with changing the lives of vulnerable children who have suffered trauma — is sadly familiar with the social and health ills Jacinda Ardern has pledged to fix.

The village’s possible closure, announced last month because of a shortfall in funding, flies in the face of the promise of social focus from Ms Ardern, and the Prime Minister and Minister for Children, Tracey Martin, came in for harsh criticism at a public meeting held in Roxburgh last week to try to stop the closure of the village.

The Labour-led Government said it was serious about the children of New Zealand, but instead had “fallen at the first fence”, Teviot Valley Community Board chairman Raymond Gunn said. . . 

Ms Ardern has been conspicuously silent about the village, refusing to comment about its future, passing the buck instead to Mrs Martin.

Such silence smacked of a “guilty conscience”, Roxburgh staff member and New Zealand Public Service Association delegate Carol Hastie said.

The Government should be revisiting its decision not to bailout the village, and looking harder at what the village provides.

The Roxburgh village helps 380 children a year, and they are some of the nation’s most vulnerable.Luckily, most people cannot imagine the kinds of trauma that means a child needs to be sent to an intensive, residential, wrap-around service such as the Stand children’s village.

But for the children who have ended up there, through no fault of their own, the village can literally change lives.

Ms Ardern’s Government has announced various initiatives with a social focus. These policies will hopefully help some of the root causes that may lead a child to end up in a situation where they require an intensive, residential, wrap-around trauma service.

But why take away that very service?

The Roxburgh children’s village is still needed by the children in the village’s large catchment, which includes everything south of the Waitaki River.

Southern social service agencies have said there is no equivalent to the residential Stand service for the children who need it. . .

The Prime Minister has talked herself up as a champion for children and Shane Jones calls himself the savior of the regions.

The children who need the help of the Roxburgh village and the people who work there don’t need empty words.

They need action and the relatively small amount of money which the government is refusing to provide.

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