Family Start and universal health services

Family Start

Family Start is an intensive home visiting programme that works with vulnerable 0–5-year-old children and their whānau. It focuses on improving children’s growth and health, learning and relationships, family circumstance, environment and safety.

Support from Family Start

There are 41 Family Start provider sites and one Early Start provider across New Zealand. (Any further reference to Family Start is inclusive of Early Start.) Family Start has capacity to support around 7,200 children and their whānau.  

Criteria for Family Start

Whānau with high needs can be referred to Family Start at any time through pregnancy and up until the baby is 12 months old. Family Start is for families with mental health issues, addiction problems, care and protection history, relationship problems, parenting and child development issues or other issues. Please view the Family Start Referral Guide (PDF, 309 KB) for detailed criteria.

Older siblings can benefit from Family Start

Family Start is child centred and whānau focused. Older and younger children are able to be supported through Family Start. Support for siblings and other whānau is important for the development of children in their whānau and environmental context.          

Referring a family more than once

Health providers can refer a family more than once, provided the whānau meet the criteria and will only be enrolled as one whānau. Family Start whānau often move, whānau can be transferred from one provider to another. However a whānau cannot be on two Family Start programmes at the same time.

Providers that can refer to Family Start

Midwives, GPs, nurses, Well Child Tamariki Ora, Plunket, Early Childhood Educators and any community agency can refer a family to Family Start; whānau can also self-refer. 

The evidence base for Family Start

A Quasi-Experimental Study was completed in February 2016 that reported on the impact of the Family Start home visiting programme on mothers and children.  The most significant finding of the study is robust evidence that Family Start reduced post neonatal infant mortality.

Further information on Family Start

Please view the Family Start brochure (PDF, 623 KB) for more information on Family Start.

The need for health services

Young children need access to universal health services to remain healthy, continue to grow and develop, and prevent more serious conditions that require hospitalisation. Young children in difficult circumstances often miss out on the health care they need. This is why Family Start is working with universal 0–5 (years of age) health service providers.

Universal health services

Universal health services include general practice, immunisations, Well Child Tamariki Ora, B4 School and oral health checks, and newborn hearing screening.

Free health services

  • There is no charge for general practice visits for eligible children aged under 13, but general practices usually charge a fee for adults and older children.
  • Immunisations provided from the immunisation schedule are free.
  • Dental care is free until children turn 18 years old.
  • Newborn hearing screening, Well Child Tamariki Ora and B4 School checks are also free.

More information on universal health services

You can find health service information for 0–5-year-olds at Services and support for you and your child.

A health and education handbook for families and carers can be found at Hand in Hand book (PDF, 16 MB).

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