Replacement for Paft project due by October

Contract negotiations for the service that will replace a government-funded and Plunket-resourced family support project in North Otago are under way.

On May 19, Social Development Minister Anne Tolley announced the Government would channel the $7.3million it was putting into the nationwide scheme Parents as First Teachers (Paft) into a system called Family Start as it tried to get funds to higher-risk children and families.

At the time the announcement was made, Family Start did not and still does not operate in North Otago despite there being 60 families in the area that accessed Paft.

Ministry of Social Development spokeswoman Ruth Palmer confirmed in an emailed statement that negotiations for a Family Start service in North Otago were taking place.

"It is expected that Family Start will be ready for service delivery by October 1, 2016.

"Once contract negotiations have been completed, the Family Start provider will be able to start receiving referrals for Paft families.''

No clear picture was formed yet of what sort of shape Family Start would take in North Otago.

Ms Palmer said the Family Start provider would be planning how to provide the best possible service for the area.

"Family Start whanau workers usually work with up to 16 families at any one time.

"Further information will be available when contract negotiations are completed.''

Family Start is an intensive home-visits programme, while Paft is targeted at helping lower-risk families.

The shift of funding means those same families and their needs being serviced by Paft still exist, but the money is being shifted to families the Government deems as having a higher need.

Earlier in the year, the ministry's deputy chief executive community investment Murray Edridge said the introduction of Family Start did mean some families who were working with Paft would not meet standards the Family Start programme required, but MSD would work with them to try to find a provider that could help.

Criteria that families would now have to meet to access the funding and show parenting was harder for caregivers and parents include mental health issues, drinking and other drug use, problem gambling, a lack of parenting knowledge when it came to basics such as knowing how to make sure a child was healthy, a child in the family had a disability or special needs, or Child, Youth and Family were involved.

Ms Palmer said Paft providers were reviewing the needs of each of their families to identify which ones were eligible for Family Start.

No information was available yet on whether any of the 60 North Otago families were eligible, but the referral process to Family Start would start once the contract negotiation process with the prospective Family Start provider was completed.

Ms Palmer said if the North Otago families being catered for by Paft did not qualify for Family Start, they would be assisted to access alternative parenting advice and support through the ministries of health and education, Plunket, Well Child, Strategies for Kids Information for Parents and Whanau Ora.

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