Most of us, when we look back on our lives, could probably reflect on some critical moments, events or people who had a significant impact for better or worse. There will be many that we take for granted – the warm house that our parents/guardians provided, a safe environment where family and friends affirmed and encouraged us as we grew up giving us self-confidence to ‘give it a go’.

Professor Peter Gluckman, the Government’s Chief Science Officer reminds us that the science of human development is complex. In the 2011 report ‘Improving the Transition – Reducing Social and Psychological Morbidity During Adolescence’ his Taskforce of experts had to consider the “biological, cultural, social and behavioural domains” to present their best assessment of what works and doesn’t work. Even then, a comprehensive assessment of what puts a child or young person at risk is not possible – but the evidence is convincing that we could do a lot better.

For many children and young people in our Counties Manukau community their life course is challenged by circumstances, not of their own doing - babies born to violent households or to parents who are ill-equipped to care for them, children (and often a parent) victimised repeatedly through abuse, homeless or transience with little or no income support. They turn into young people who are more likely to be fearful, angry, and ill-equipped for work or education, some turn to violence and other forms of abuse on themselves and others.

We and our tax payer funded colleagues do our best most of the time – Police, Children, Young People and their Families, Health services, education, Housing, Corrections, Courts. Our most vulnerable families often have someone from each of the above agencies present in their lives. I have heard one family report that they organise their family life around visits on an almost daily basis. If it takes a village to raise a child or support a family, as a collective group of agencies we are certainly not working like we are part of that village.

So there is room for more joining up. While there are many initiatives like Whaanau Ora that try to reduce the ‘number of cars’ in the driveway, we are at risk of just squashing the same number of people but in one car. Is this success? Partly but we need to go further.  There are a number of initiatives where we will go further. Children’s Teams led by MSD will streamline the support for vulnerable children. We are also working with Auckland and Wellington based agencies to jointly govern the Social Investment Government puts into our community at a local level. That is investment across all our funding and resource silos. If it reduces the number of people in the car to one trusted advisor to the family and that one person has access to the full suite of what Government has to offer – that’s real success. Less form filling between agencies, fewer agencies debating eligibility through referrals, less time assessing need and more time on intervening and treating issues important to children when they need it. We are the village that raises that child and it’s time to work together like one.

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children mental health

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