Friday 15 August 2008

Policy Watch - 15 August

New publications for NZCCSS on foodbank trends and poverty facts

We are delighted to have completed research on issues at the core of NZCCSS work. Many of you may recall the research work NZCCSS has done in the past to track foodbank trends through the Poverty Indicators Project . Affectionately known as PIP this project finished in 2004. Today at the Housing and Poverty Policy Group NZCCSS is launching the Poverty Indicators Project Update – A Snapshot Comparative Analysis of Foodbank Use. The report compares trends between the December quarter of 2004 with the December quarter of 2007.

Additionally we are about to update the Myths About Poverty material produced 10 years ago, renamed now as Facts About Poverty. These Fact Sheets will be regularly updated and will be available via our website.


Last week I attended a pre-release briefing for the new report published by the Children's Commissioner and Barnardos - A Fair Go for All Children. Highlighted in the report is the high numbers of children still living in poverty (an estimated 230,000 or 22%) and the highly uneven distribution of child poverty. Children of sole parents are five times more likely to live in poverty than children in couple households. If neither mum nor dad are in full time work then children are six times more likely be impoverished than families with one parent working full-time.

This week the National Party released details on its policy for beneficiaries . Unsurprisingly, many of the flawed policies of the past have reared their ugly heads again. The Green Party quickly reponded by pointing out that in 2001 MSD evaluated National's DPB reforms of the 1990s and concluded that the policies weren't very successful.

Journalist Gordon Campbell has commented that National's welfare policy "will do nothing to lift children out of poverty and in fact, could well worsen the financial hardship faced by such families". Interestingly he points out that solo parents are "the group of beneficiaries widely recognized as being in LEAST need of extra motivation to get off the benefit."

Anne Else has written a very compelling column entitled Letter from Elsewhere: Closing the door on hope. It invites readers to think critically about National’s welfare policy and outlines the changes in policies since 1969 when Key’s mother was on the widow’s benefit. The purpose of this is to highlight how the safety net has been weakened and the reality of impoverishment for contemporary beneficiary families.

For comments from other parties and groups:

Note: The Social Services Select Committee has reported back to Parliament on the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Amendment Bill (No 6), with a majority recommendation that it be passed with amendments shown.


Community Housing are offering their final workshop for 2008 – Property Development and Sustainable Development: An Intro to (Almost) Everything You Need to Know – presented by Ian Cassel and Alexandra Hills. Workshops will be held in Wellington, Tauranga, Christchurch and Auckland during September at a cost of $150 for members and $200 for non members. Also see their flyer for the group discount.

Minister Dyson in a recent press release lauded the improved in wellbeing for New Zealanders illustrated in the latest issue of the the Social Report. Whilst we recognise the progress that has been made we think it a bit disingenuous to claim that "For the first time since 1988 we’ve seen the gap between the rich and poor close”. Actually that gap is no longer widening and has narrowed slightly. Unfortunately this report will not be available on the MSD website until the end of the month. We will give a more detailed overview early in September.


A new resource booklet is available for free from Age Concern on Alcohol and Older People. The new booklet lists danger signals that older people and their families, friends and carers should look out for, gives tips for safe alcohol use, and explains where to go for support and advice.


Reports are coming in thick and fast at the moment. The Salvation Army’s A New Journey: Issues and Reflections for the 2008 Parliamentary Elections is also a good read. As usual they manage to capture the key issues concisely and suggest some questions for reflection accompanied by scriptural references on the last page.

MSD has also released The Statistical Report For the Year Ending June 2007. The good thing about access to this report online is that you can identify the sections you are most interested in and print just these e.g. section 3 on pensions and main benefits. Note the Word version will not be available till the end of the month.

The Prime Minister commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Social Security Act 1938 at the launching of a biography of one of the architects behind the scheme, Sir Arnold Nordmeyer. In a press release she notes "The Social Security Act was introduced to Parliament on 11 August 1938, and for the first time acknowledged that the care and welfare of citizens was a government responsibility." Unfortunately the Act was recently amended and the principle of welfare has been replaced with 'Work First' principles to guide it. Let's hope there isn't a 70th anniversary for this philosophy.

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