KERRE MCIVOR

Herald on Sunday - - REVIEW - Kerre McIvor u@Ker­reWood­ham Kerre McIvor is on New­stalkZB Mon­day to Fri­day, noon-4pm.

The new Gov­ern­ment has wasted no time get­ting on and do­ing what Labour gov­ern­ments do — with the no­table ex­cep­tion of the fourth Labour Gov­ern­ment.

It has set about spend­ing money on so­cial poli­cies and this week, it was the ex­ten­sion of paid parental leave from the 18 weeks par­ents have now to 22 weeks next year, and ul­ti­mately 26 weeks by July 2020.

Pre­dictably, there has been huff­ing and puff­ing from some peo­ple — male and fe­male. They say peo­ple who want ba­bies should pay for them them­selves, just as they had to all those years ago.

I think they are con­ve­niently for­get­ting they were able to claim the Fam­ily Ben­e­fit.

From 1946, moth­ers re­ceived pay­ment for ev­ery child and the Fam­ily Ben­e­fit Home Ownership Act al­lowed cou­ples to cap­i­talise on their ben­e­fits and use the money as a de­posit for a house.

The Fam­ily Ben­e­fit en­abled huge num­bers of mid­dle-in­come par­ents to own a home, and our home ownership rates were high com­pared with many other coun­tries.

That’s a dis­tant mem­ory now but at least ex­tend­ing parental leave will give young fam­i­lies some re­lief. It’s still not a gen­er­ous al­lowance, even look­ing at the ul­ti­mate 26 weeks.

Many other coun­tries understand the im­por­tance of par­ents be­ing able to spend time with their new baby, and leg­is­lated ac­cord­ingly.

My daugh­ter is liv­ing in Eng­land and she has been able to take a year off her job, nine months of which was paid.

Al­though her hus­band could have looked af­ter his little fam­ily on his salary, it would have been tight — and it would have been stress­ful.

And the ar­rival of a new baby brings enough chal­lenges with­out money be­ing an is­sue.

I had for­got­ten just how much en­ergy you need when a baby’s in the house.

The in­ter­rupted sleep, the need to be con­stantly vig­i­lant, the sheer phys­i­cal strength you need to lift and carry 10kg of wrig­gling de­li­cious­ness — it all takes its toll.

And new par­ents have to be on their game be­cause rais­ing hu­mans is one of the most im­por­tant jobs you can do.

At the Love Grows Brains Trust launch a few months ago, speaker af­ter speaker high­lighted how vi­tal it is to nur­ture ba­bies — es­pe­cially in their first three years.

And hav­ing had my grand­son in the house for three weeks, I could see the changes and growth in his de­vel­op­ment

Hin that short time. Happy and healthy ba­bies and par­ents are a good out­come for all New Zealan­ders, and study af­ter study has shown in­vest­ment in new par­ents brings re­turns.

A CNN report that looked at the re­search found (among many other ben­e­fits) paid parental leave re­duces in­fant mor­tal­ity by up to 10 per cent, in­creases the like­li­hood of chil­dren re­ceiv­ing vac­ci­na­tions by up to 25 per cent, in­creases the rate and du­ra­tion of breast­feed­ing, re­duces the rate of post­na­tal de­pres­sion and in­creases the like­li­hood of a mother re­join­ing the work­force.

It’s a no-brainer — in­vest­ment in chil­dren means we spend less on at-risk adults in the fu­ture.

Bill English knows that — that’s why he for­mu­lated his so­cial in­vest­ment pol­icy and that’s why Na­tional is sup­port­ing the ex­ten­sion to the paid parental leave Kiwi par­ents presently get.

It’s just a shame Na­tional ve­toed the leg­is­la­tion when in of­fice.

And how lovely was it to see the Speaker of the House cradling 3-mon­thold Heeni, the daugh­ter of Labour MP Wil­low-Jean Prime, dur­ing the dis­cus­sions on ex­tend­ing paid parental leave.

Trevor Mal­lard has promised to make Par­lia­ment more fam­ily friendly and he has made a good start by pro­vid­ing Heeni a safe and se­cure seat while her mum was work­ing.

We’re not go­ing to see the ben­e­fits of ex­tended paid parental leave im­me­di­ately — but as with all good in­vest­ments, we’ll reap a mag­nif­i­cent div­i­dend in the fu­ture. What’s your view? let­ters@hos.co.nz

“Rais­ing hu­mans is one of the most im­por­tant jobs you can do.”

Mark Mitchell

Par­lia­ment TV shows Trevor Mal­lard hold­ing Wil­low-Jean Prime’s daugh­ter, Heeni, 3 months.

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