North Otago families will lose access to the Parents As First Teachers (Paft) scheme as the Government claws back $7.3million from the nationwide programme to pump it into a system called Family Start.
Social Development Minister Anne Tolley made the announcement on May 19.
The Government believed Family Start could provide more support for more vulnerable children and their families.
Family Start is an intensive home visits programme while Paft is targeted at helping lower-risk families.
But the Oamaru Kindergarten Association says North Otago does not have a Family Start programme and losing Paft would leave the 60 families it served without the support they needed.
Association general manager Julie Craig, said there was sparse communication about what would happen to North Otago when Paft finished up in September.
"We don't know what it means for North Otago.
"Losing Paft is huge for us.''
Ministry of Social Development (MSD) deputy chief executive, community investment Murray Edridge said the funding switch was about moving money to a higher-need group.
"Paft is a low intensity programme not designed to specifically meet the needs of vulnerable children.
"MSD's review of its parenting programmes has highlighted that there is no conclusive evidence to show whether Paft is effective in reducing child maltreatment, or that it could be adapted to become an effective response to meet the needs of vulnerable children.
"Family Start is a more intensive programme. Its eligibility criteria are designed to identify families with vulnerable children.''
Ms Craig said Paft worked with children aged up to 3 and worked as a stable pathway for children to early childhood education.
"So all of those vulnerable families may not be able to access other services and they come to us at three.
"In a lot of cases we work with Paft to get those kids into kindergarten so there's that flow-on so it helps them with that transition into early childhood education.
"It promotes greater positive learning outcomes for the kids.''
Ms Craig said there was a waiting list for North Otago Paft and she was "worried'' about what would happen to North Otago's families.
She said there was no communication about how Family Start would work in North Otago if it was being run from where it is currently based, Dunedin.
"Is it going to be [started] in North Otago or is it just a service that happens one or two days out of Dunedin?
"If that's the case how will they support the large numbers of families that Paft supports?
"If it's coming out of Dunedin what does that look like?''
Mr Edridge said the introduction of Family Start did mean that some families who were working with Paft would not meet standards that the Family Start programme required, but MSD would work with them to try to find a provider that could help.
He said as a result of the funding change Family Start would come into the area, but it was still unknown what shape Family Start would take in North Otago.
"At this point we can't guarantee service provision for everybody.
"Clearly, for some people it's disappointing. It's by no means a criticism of anything anyone does in delivering Paft.
"This is a more targeted spend and a more effective way of using the resources available.''
Referrals are accepted where one or both parents/ caregivers are experiencing difficulties that fit certain criteria including:
• Parents/caregivers with mental health issues.
• Parents/caregivers experiencing difficulties with drugs, alcohol or gambling.
• Parents/caregivers with a childhood or young person history of abuse.
• Family/whanau with a care or protection history.
• Evidence of relationship problems of violence, conflict and instability within the family/whanau.
• Family/whanau where child health and developmental issues are of concern.
• Young parents (under 18 years of age) who are experiencing additional challenges or needs.
Source: Ministry of Social Development
About the programmes. -
• Neither programme is faith-based. However, some service providers are founded on a particular religious philosophy, such as Presbyterian Support and the Anglican Trust for Women and Children.
• Anglican Family Care delivers Family Start in Dunedin.
• Paft started in 1992.
• Family Start began in 2000.
• 125 families in Otago use Paft.