About 1 per cent of New Zealand children have risk factors that make them far more likely to suffer hardship -- and to target help to them the Government wants more access to New Zealanders' private information.

A new analysis of all children up to the age of 14 has been completed as part of the Government's "investment approach" to social spending, which aims to identify where up-front spending can cut costs later.

READ MORE: Government made 12,000 privacy requests to just 10 companies

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English is championing the work, and today released the new data -- and also laid out a plan to overcome some privacy constraints.

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"It is hard to overstate the unique opportunity New Zealand now has to make better use of this data," Mr English said in a speech to the Institute of Public Administration at Parliament.

The Government has now identified factors which make a youth much more at risk of experiencing hardship later in life:

•A Child, Youth and Family finding of abuse or neglect (8 per cent of children 0-14 years old).

•Being supported by benefits for most of their lifetime (15 per cent).

•Having a parent who has received a corrective sentence (17 per cent).

•Having a mother with no formal qualifications (10 per cent).

Although the four indicators were associated with poor outcomes later in life, they may not cause poor outcomes directly.

Children in Northland, Gisborne and Hawke's Bay are more likely to have two or more risk factors, although almost a third of high-risk children live in Auckland.

Within Auckland, 27 per cent of children in Papakura had two or more risk factors. That compared with just 2 per cent in Orakei and 3 per cent in Devonport-Takapuna and Upper Harbour.

Officials have also looked at what is likely to happen to at-risk children later in life. The 1 per cent of children who have all four indicators are four times more likely to leave school with no qualifications, nine times more likely to serve a prison sentence, and six times more likely to receive benefits for more than five years before they turn 35.

Mr English has previously admitted the Government did not yet have the answers on how to find all at-risk individuals, but floated the prospect of "testing notions of consent" -- asking people how much information they are willing to share and have shared.

Today, his speech further developed that prospect.

"Social investment will raise questions around what license the Government has to use sensitive information. This year the Government will have a conversation with the New Zealand public about the acceptable use of your sensitive information.

"The Data Futures Partnership, chaired by Dame Diane Robertson, will lead that discussion."

Mr English said most New Zealanders would expect the Government to take all reasonable steps to help support society's most vulnerable.

"And so our offer to the New Zealand public is this. We will commit to delivering services that are better targeted and which will make a real difference, and we will stop spending on services that don't work -- if you will let us make better use of your data.

"A bottom line as part of this offer is a commitment to being responsible and respectful stewards of New Zealanders' data."

Mr English has previously said a planned review of the Privacy Act could help get support to those identified as vulnerable.

His speech today came just hours after Privacy Commissioner John Edwards sounded a warning while presenting to Parliament's justice and electoral select committee.

In August 2011 the Law Commission presented a major review of the law of privacy which had been started in October 2006. The Government agreed with the Law Commission's key recommendation to replace the act with a new act, but that work has not yet progressed.

Asked about that delay by Labour MP Clare Curran, Mr Edwards said New Zealand was at risk of falling behind.

"My office lacks powers that I see exercised to good effect in a number of comparable jurisdictions.

"It is becoming a matter of urgency, I think. We are seeing increased demands on the use of big data, for example. We have seen and supported the work of the Data Futures Partnership ... I think the social license [of that work] comes with assuring the public that there is an effective oversight mechanism and a modern data protection regime."

The Treasury last year published two reports analysing data to identify the risk factors faced by 0-5 year olds, and also 15-24 year olds. Today's publication extended this to include 0-14 year olds.