Under Oranga Whanau, groups of three kuia will visit pregnant Maori women to identify welfare issues.
Speaking yesterday at a violence and abuse research symposium, Dr Sharples said the $1 million programme would roll out in Auckland, Northland, Rotorua and Hutt Valley.
Under the scheme, the three "nannies" will work in a team visiting mothers in their regions. Dr Sharples said it followed a smaller trial that iwi in Ngati Kahungunu undertook this year.
The "nanny principle" puts into practice the cultural way older people relate to younger people in the same non-threatening way that Maori wardens work. "It works really well. One puts the kettle on, one natters about the whakapapa, the other one cuts the cake," the minister said.
"It is a catch-all - it's an opportunity to help people before issues become issues."
I am involved in something a little similar as a volunteer but work on my own and tend to roll up the sleeves instead of nattering. The real nattering comes during the work and after the trust is gained. But I have to say that progress is often quite limited because other issues crowd it out. You cannot be in people's houses and lives 24/7. There are always other influences, often harmful, pulling in another direction.
To me a team of 3 uses up too many resources in one place. Visiting every week would be more effective than visiting every 3 weeks. Getting to know someone well is the key.
Dr Sharples said the programme had parallels with his own experience working with Maori families reaching back to the 1970s, where he dealt with those struggling with alcoholism, unemployment, domestic abuse and other issues.
And isn't that the crunch? We are still on the same treadmill except it is going faster and we are running out of breath. This kind of approach will help a few problem families. But in the main the welfare system ensures that many more are presented than can be helped. Or who want to be helped.