Budget boost for 'million-dollar problem' children

A community organisation that goes into homes and helps families struggling to care for babies or toddlers has been given a budget boost. 

Shelmaine Terblanche works on the front line with difficult kids at Family Start.

She sees first-hand the environments that produce the group of children more likely to end up dropping out of school, on the benefit and in prison.

"Family Start has the ability to be a voice for families that don't have that voice," Ms Terblanche says.

"Our client is the child, the child up to the age of five. The child's not an island so we work with the family and support the entire family."

And on Tuesday, the organisation got $28 million to help it expand.

Prime Minister Bill English is aiming to save those kids who he says turn into New Zealand's "million-dollar children."

"These are among our million-dollar children who will cost a million dollars by the time they are 35, and how much misery do you think that measures?" he said.

The money is part of what's called 'Social Investment' - the Prime Minister's signature policy. It's about spending a smaller amount of taxpayers money on problems earlier rather than more later.

Over the next four years, $68.8 million dollars will be spent for vulnerable children:

  • $28.1 million for Family Start
  • $34.7 million for children with behavioural issues
  • $6 million for children with communication issues

"Changing lives is the whole point. We're not here to service misery we're here to reduce it," Mr English said.

The Budget countdown is on - it's two and a half weeks away and the Prime Minister is starting by giving money to his pet project.

There's more to come, as social investment is getting a total of $321 million.