Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is proposing to sign up children in care to Kiwisaver.
“While on my U.S Eisenhower fellowship, I was impressed with savings accounts set up for children in care and saw an opportunity with KiwiSaver.”
“New Zealand children in care generally don’t have family who can sign them up to Kiwisaver, but being enrolled will help them later in life and send a message that their future matters,” says Mrs Bennett.
We’ve been working on a range of supports for young people leaving care, called Set for Life to help them as they move into adulthood.
“I’m proposing we sign all children in care up to KiwiSaver, so they leave the care system with a solid financial foundation,” says Mrs Bennett.
“New Zealanders wanting to help children who’ve been abused and through the worst in life, would be able to contribute financially through payroll giving.”
Each young person would get the Government $1000 kick start payment and a community organisation would distribute any donated funds evenly.
The Vulnerable Children Bill, includes a proposed amendment to the KiwiSaver Act 2006 allowing the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development to enrol the young person in KiwiSaver, act as guardian and manage the account.
The current KiwiSaver rules require both parents, or guardians to sign when a young person under 18 years old enrols in KiwiSaver.
This will provide vulnerable children with a financial foundation for their futures and provide a vehicle for charitable donations which goes to those in need.
The proposal is part of a wider care strategy aimed at improving the transition experience for young people who legally leave care at 17 years old.
“Part of that strategy is to provide more support for those who need and want it when they leave care, up to the age of 20 years,” says Mrs Bennett.
“Only some will want to stay involved with Child, Youth and Family for that long, but the option should be there for those who need it.”
This provides an option for those who don’t have the family support available to most young people when they leave home.
Other changes to be introduced include better support for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and other caregivers, more transparency for Family Group Conferences and better support for disabled children in care.
‘We’re increasing efforts to get all available health supports for families who’re considering putting a disabled child into care, so that child can stay at home.
If a disabled child is in care, a review of their living arrangements will be held every year instead of every two years, but the focus will be on staying in the family home, with more support as the best option.
Family Group Conferences are currently run by a CYF co-ordinator. A review found many people would support external co-ordinators, including iwi as well.
Child, Youth and Family is working with iwi on this idea alongside a range of cultural improvements that draw from tikanga Māori.
The Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act will be amended to clarify the intended prominence of section 13(a) that children must be protected from harm, their rights upheld and their welfare promoted.
In his 2010 report into the serious abuse of a nine year old girl, Mel Smith noted section 5 of the CYPF Act (which says where possible the relationship to family should be maintained) often takes precedence over section 13.
“Mel Smith said this is possibly to the detriment of the safety, welfare and interests of the child, so I think we need to strengthen the core purpose of the Act which is to put the needs of the child first,” says Mrs Bennett.
Families aren’t always the best and safest place for children.
The welfare of the child should always come first even if it means the relationship with his or her family is weakened or undermined.