Wednesday 20 August 2008

Policy Watch e-letter - 20 August

In the July issue of Tui Motu I was impressed with how succinctly Alan Johnson from the Salvation Army discusses Poverty as a Relationship - between the rich and poor, and "mediated through markets and entitlements". Given that both markets and entitlements are socially constructed rather than natural occurences it fits very well with the latest instalment of our information programme Aroha tetahi ki te tetahi - Let us look after each other - namely Made Poor in NZ.

The poster (see left) and flier produced for this latest key message are available on request to NZCCSS, and coincide with the release of an up-to-date set of fact sheets titled Facts About Poverty in 2008.

Pathway to Partnership (P2)
P2p Update – The government has started to roll out its Pathway to Partnership funding to social service agencies that provide essential services for families, children and young people. For more information on P2P funding check out the latest MSD funding news.

Responses to National plans for DPB parents - media opinions
In last weeks Policy Watch National's welfare plans were discussed.
Commentary in the weekend papers (16-17 August) included an article and editorial in the Sunday Star-Times, respectively headed "Plan to force DPB parents to work unrealistic - critics" and "Solo parents deserve a better deal". The article - by Lois Watson - quotes Jennifer Curtin of Auckland University, and a Christchurch solo mum. The editorial observed that National's policy "certainly isn't about making big savings to the benefits bill: one analysis shows the policy could save as little as $20 million a year". It also observed that "pushing beneficiaries back to work, sometimes with more stick than carrot, is already Labour policy".

The major point it makes is that National's policy is flawed on practical grounds. The case is put that "raising a child alone while subsisting on a benefit set perilously close to the poverty line is gruelling at the best of times, let alone in a time of soaring prices and economic gloom".
An interesting point made at the editorial's conclusion is that neither National nor Labour are addressing the fact that society is undergoing fundamental changes and single parent families are on the rise. The closing point: "These families ... certainly deserve rather more serious consideration by our policymakers".

Writing in the Weekend Herald, Fran O'Sullivan suggested it was a pity that John Key did not reach out directly to domestic purposes beneficiaries by digging deeper into his own personal experiences. O'Sullivan described Key's mother, who received a widows benefit, as a member of the "deserving poor", before adding that her benefit - at 65 percent of the then average wage - was not abated when she took on extra work as a night porter. Her fellow Herald columnist John Armstrong pointed to policies being adopted in the UK by the Labour Government there on benefit conditions for "lone parents" being tagged to the age of their children. Armstrong claims there is an emerging consensus on welfare-to-work policy, and ends his politics column with a suggestion that National's policy merely builds on Labour's model.

Infometrics economist Nigel Pinkerton, writing in a regular column for the Dominion Post, took an angle that National's plans for domestic purposes beneficiaries had "drawn a predictable response from the far Left", whatever that might mean! If you have time to read his contribution - which resorts to words such as "handouts" and other urban myths - and want to rebut or engage in a debate with Nigel send him an email at

Dominion Post's coverage on 11 August of National's plans (on Stuff), has attracted 357 comments. Comments posted online do tend to begin to look and sound like Talkback radio at a certain point, but in the absence of wider debate the number of responses says something.


In a press release on homelessness, LIFEWISE, formerly known as Methodist Mission Northern, reminds the public of the realities of being homeless and the risks to personal safety for the homeless. LIFEWISE is a social service agency that works with homeless people in Auckland. A June 2008 Street Count report reveals that over 100 people are homeless in Auckland – this is the fourth report of the Rough Sleepers Initiative.

We are delighted that John McCarthy, General Manager of Community Services at LIFEWISE has recently joined the Child and Family Policy Group of NZCCSS.

The NZ Herald of Saturday 16 August ran an article on page A10 covering the increase in use of foodbanks, and made mention of the release of the NZCCSS report "A Snapshot Comparative Analysis of Foodbank Use". The article was accompanied by a photo of a woman putting a food parcel together at Mercy Missions in Papakura.


The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 is under review and is in stage three. Stakeholder workshops are being held in Wellington Auckland and Christchurch in September. Feedback from the first two stages indicates that the Act is generally operating well and only needs fine tuning. For workshop registration details click here.


The Japanese Government operates an international programme to develop leadership in civil society through collaboration and the development of key networks. This year New Zealand has been invited to participate along with United Kingdom and United States of America. Invitations are being sought for a group of 13 people from NZ to visit Japan next year. They will be selected for their engagement in one of three sectors, care of people with disabilities, care of the aged and care for youth. If you would like to know more about how to apply check out the national office website for Sister Cities.

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