Parents hail free GP visits for kids

"I'm really impressed with that"

MATHEW GROCOTT MATHEW.GROCOTT@MSL.CO.NZ
Last updated 10:16 16/05/2014
kids
DAVID UNWIN
Stress relief: Elle Nightingale, pictured with partner Anthony Wright and their daughter Lilly Wright, says free doctor’s visits for under-13s will make life better for families.

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Free doctor's visits for under-13s are the big bonus for families, as are changes to parental leave. The Government is predicting wages to rise and unemployment levels to fall. The investments in education are good news for children, though the question is whether enough is being spent in this area.

The expansion of free GP visits to children under 13 will relieve a cause of stress for parents, says a pregnant Bulls mum.

Budget 2014, released yesterday, included initiatives for children and young families, including increasing the age at which children stop receiving free doctor's visits from 6 to 13.

"That's a really good idea, I'm really impressed with that," said Elle Nightingale.

"It's going to make it easier for those on welfare."

The $90 million policy was among the cornerstones of Bill English's sixth Budget, his first to deliver a surplus, although a thin one at $375m.

It was part of a $500m investment for families that included $171.8m to expand paid parental leave and $155.7m for early childhood education.

An extra $1.8 billion was put into health funding over four years, as was $858m of new money for education and $199m for tertiary education.

Nightingale said parents on low incomes worried about being able to afford the cost of a doctor's visit for their child. The 22-year-old lives in Bulls with her partner Anthony Wright and their 1-year-old daughter Lilly Wright; a second child is on the way.

Nightingale also welcomed increases to paid parental leave, which will go from 14 weeks to 18 weeks over the next two years.

"I've seen a lot of mums that had to go back to work when their paid maternity leave ran out.

"I couldn't imagine leaving my daughter at 13 weeks, I don't know how those mums do it."

However, she said Labour's plan of increasing paid parental leave to 28 weeks may be "a bit extravagant".

Palmerston North mother of two Christine Nugent said National could have done more for families in the Budget. Extending paid parental leave to 18 weeks was not enough, she said. "It should be much longer, I think at least six months. The child is then at an age to go to daycare.Eighteen weeks is much too young to expect a child to go to daycare."

The extension of free doctor's visits was "absolutely brilliant".

Nugent's daughters are 15 months and 10 weeks old and knowing she could take them to the doctor without having to worry about the cost was a relief, she said.

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There were parents who worried about whether they could afford to take their children to the doctor and could put off doing so, she said.

Professor Paul McDonald, head of Massey University's College of Health, said children from lower socio-economic backgrounds would benefit, in particular. Families with low incomes could at times delay taking a child to a doctor because of the cost until the situation got worse, which could make treatment more difficult, he said. "This will have long-term benefits."

- Manawatu Standard

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