Assessments for needy kids lauded

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 07:51 17/12/2012

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A total of 19 Taranaki children who have had a "rough start in life" have been helped to deal with their significant health and educational issues.

But many more are on the waiting list to take advantage of the Gateway Assessment service managed by the Taranaki DHB since August last year.

The Taranaki children and young people are among more than 1200 nationwide who have been through the $43.7 million Children in Care service.

"These children are the most vulnerable in New Zealand," Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says.

"I'm incredibly proud of this package which has picked up serious health, mental health and educational problems which can now be addressed."

Every child had presented with significant health issues including heart murmurs, dental problems and hearing loss, she said.

Mental health issues were identified in 53 per cent of the children and 14 per cent had speech problems. Other issues included lack of immunisation, skin problems, parental mental health, drug addiction, alcoholism or a combination.

"This is what research said we'd find and illustrates why this is such a valuable investment for children who've had a rough start to life," Ms Bennett said.

Taranaki DHB clinical services manager for child and maternal health Leigh Cleland said yesterday it was great for health workers to be providing a service that was making a difference.

The children involved came from backgrounds where health was not a priority.

"Some have never been to a dental clinic," she said.

"We've only just starting rolling it out. We have a hump of children to get over but we hope that in 6 to 12 months we'll be getting the newly referred children rather than the backlog."

The children were referred through Child Youth and Family to Gateway assessment co-ordinator Lisa Winters, a public health nurse, who was providing an excellent service, Ms Cleland said, as was Maori Health worker Denise Smith in South Taranaki.

The children underwent a paediatric assessment and might be referred on to have dental, vision, hearing, language and mental health checks as well as GP checks depending on their needs.

The initiative will be rolled out through all the DHBs by February next year.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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