The National Party is promising up to $3000 for all expecting parents to spend on baby support services, and wants to give them the option of taking paid parental leave together, if elected to power.
Most parents would receive a funding allocation of $3000, while those identified through enhanced screening as being at higher risk or having additional needs would be allocated up to $6000.
But new parents would not receive cash. Rather, they would receive a nominal funding amount against which they could commission approved services, including midwife services or access to mentoring.
The funding could only be used to purchase approved and specified services, however parents would have full autonomy about how to allocate their funding from among the approved options.
National is also promising to entitle mums to a three day stay in their postnatal facility. They would also be able to use their funding allocation to spend more time in a postnatal facility.
Parents would be given a choice about when they take their leave. Parents can currently take leave one at a time, but National wants to give them the option to take leave together.
Parents could also use their funding allocation to get more paid parental leave, which was extended to 26 weeks by the current Government from July, and is paid out $585.80 before tax each week.
National's First 1000 Days policy also includes 'child passports', an idea floated in the party's education policy discussion document in November - a means of keeping track of a child's education progress.
Only in National's latest policy, the child passport concept would be used to record needs identified through screening and track progress to key physical, emotional, developmental and education milestones.
This would be picked up in pre- and post-birth GP visits and a revamped 'B4 School' check at age three to identify developmental concerns and trigger early intervention services.
National's First 100 Days policy
- $3000 for all expecting parents to spend on baby services
- Pre- and post-birth GP visits and 'B4 School' check at age three
- Three day postnatal stay
- Child passport to track progress
- Paid parental leave flexibility
- Establish a National Centre for Child Development
National says the new funding, allocated per child rather than directly to services, would mean that parental demand will determine which services receive how much of the additional money.
The policy is expected to cost $226 million.
Organisations currently funded by the Government to provide services for the first 1000 days would keep their existing baseline funding. Plunket, for example, will still receive its existing funding allocation of approximately $66 million per year.
"They would also be eligible to receive a share of National's new funding, if that's what New Zealand parents choose to do with their allocation," said National leader Judith Collins.
Here's how the funding would work
A sole parent expecting her first child would attend a pre-birth screening visit at her GP who might assess her as being a high needs parent due to her concerns around how she will cope and her lack of parental experience.
She would receive a funding allocation of up to $6000 and would be assigned a navigator to help her select services that will best support her child's development.
In another scenario, a couple both with stable jobs and incomes might be assessed by their GP as not having additional needs and so they would receive a funding allocation of $3000.
They might spend it on an extra two nights in a postnatal facility, on top of the three nights they will already be entitled to under National.
National's new policy comes after a UNICEF report reflected poor rates of child wellbeing in New Zealand between 2013 and 2018.
Prime Minister and Child Poverty Reduction Minister Jacinda Ardern said the report pre-dates progress in rolling out the Government's $5.5b billion Families Package and setting child poverty reduction targets.
Data published by Stats NZ in February found there had been "no significant change" in material hardship rates since 2017.
But Ardern has argued the Government has improved wellbeing by increasing benefits by $25 a week and doubling the winter energy payment during the coldest months.
The $5.5 billion Families Package included a new payment for new-borns called Best Start, where families who qualify can receive a $60 per week payment until their baby turns one, no matter how much they earn.
National would keep BestStart, but says it would be means tested from year one. It already is means-tested after the first year, a parent can continue to receive payments until their child turns three, if they earn under $93,858.