Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Policy Watch

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Vulnerability Reports


When an economic recession hits, the social consequences are real. Communities, families and people of all ages are affected. People who may have already been vulnerable to poverty and hardship become even more so. New people join not just the ranks of the unemployed, but become exposed to - more vulnerable to - other social consequences that have an impact on social well-being.

Every three months NZCCSS will be publishing a new monitoring report, with a focus on tracking the social impact of the recession on those amongst us who are, or become, most vulnerable. The reports are a mix of publicly available government data, data requested via the Official Information Act (OIA) and feedback from community based organisations – both NZCCSS member agencies and others. It is hoped that these reports will pull together the latest information available from a wide range of sources to keep poverty and hardship on the policy agenda.

Examples of information in the first report include messages from a number of food banks and providers of emergency meals that illustrate unprecedented levels of demand. Similar stories have been gathered from providers of emergency accommodation and we have accessed the latest data from government agencies on the growing numbers of benefit dependent adults and children. For example, Paula Bennett recently told a Select Committee that 302,000 are receiving benefits as of May 2009. That’s 13,000 more people than were recorded in the last Benefit Fact Sheet (for the March 2009 Quarter). Information from MSD via OIA shows that about 211,000 children live in benefit dependent households (March 2009). Coupled with the rising demand for hardship assistance, it is unsurprising that some community agencies are feeling the impact.

Data in these 'Vulnerability Reports' will be updated quarterly and will be available on our website www.justiceandcompassion.org.nz The first report (and background information sheet) will be available in early July. The reports will be used to advocate for more compassionate policy responses from government.

Small savings will have long term impacts

It is starting to become evident what services and programmes will be lost as the government moves to ‘balance the books’. One can’t help but wonder at the medium and long term impact of short term and relatively small savings. Some examples of the services that have recently come under the knife (or are rumoured to be going) include:

  • Fruit in schools programme – surely important given obesity levels in children in NZ and social costs of health related problems as these children grow into adults. Isn't it also important to retain such a programme given the child poverty levels in NZ and prohibitive cost of health foods such as fruit for many low income families?

  • Adult Community Education - The budget for all those fabulous and affordable night school classes has been slashed by about three quarters with the government committing funding for literacy and numeracy programmes only.

  • Disestablishment of 12 CYF Service Centres – a restructuring of CYF from a 4 level to a 3 level organisation, redeploying qualified staff to the frontline at site offices (where possible) and saving an estimated $20m. Sounds reasonable until you realise that some roles are being disestablished altogether.

  • Early Childhood Education - $275m will be saved through the government letting go of the teacher-child ratio targets in early childhood education. Numerous other cuts have been made in professional development programmes.
Anyone interested in more detailed information regarding Budget 2009 and the line by line reviews can check out each Value for Money Vote report from the Treasury website.

Whanau Ora Taskforce

Tariana Turia has announced the members of a new taskforce whose first priority is to develop a policy framework to improve the way government responds to Maori Whanau. It is expected to report back to Mrs Turia in early 2010. This announcement comes shortly after the budget announcement of an additional $32m over four years for Whanau Social Assistance Services which will be used to establish a network of Whanau advocates to work alongside Whanau.

Yes Vote gains momentum

NZCCSS has signed up to Vote Yes, an education campaign to urge New Zealanders to support current laws to protect children from violence. Many people may get lost in the details of the growing public debate around the upcoming referendum question - "Should a smack as a part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?" The question is biased and confusing. Let’s not get caught in arguments over what degree of harm is acceptable (a slap which leaves no mark?). It’s not legal to physically harm a pet or an adult so why would it be okay do this to children? For more detail check out the excellent information on www.yesvote.org.nz – even better – add your name.

I was also pleased to read that Sue Bradford has launched a Members Bill aimed at ending confusing and biased questions in Citizens Initiated Referenda. It went in the Parliamentary member’s ballot box on 18 June. Let’s hope it gets drawn from the ballot box or picked up by government. It’s been estimated that the current referendum on ‘smacking’ is costing $9m, money that would be much better spent on care and protection services for children.

It's not OK says Age Concern

"Most elder abuse is caused by family members… and it's not OK." That's the message Age Concern and the It’s Not Ok Campaign team are delivering to New Zealanders in a new booklet about elder abuse. The booklet, 'Take the Time… Value Older people', was released from 15 June to help mark World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Visit the Age Concern website for a copy of the booklet [links directly to PDF] or more information on elder abuse and neglect prevention.

Homelessness website

For those of us with an interest in homelessness, an often overlooked issue, check out the website of the NZ Coalition to End Homelessness steering group. By its very definition (or more to the point lack of an official definition) this issue tends to be invisible and has slipped below the policy radar. This site talks about the group's aims, activities and processes and provides excellent access to various publications.

Auckland meeting to address homelessness

While on the issue of homelessness, it was interesting to read a recent media release about a group of organisations, some of whom are NZCCSS members, meeting to work together to address anti-social and homelessness issues in Auckland. Christian organisations that were part of this discussion included Lifewise, Auckland City Mission and the Salvation Army. This meeting was requested by a City Council committee that is looking to introduce new bylaws to deal with loitering, street sleeping and nuisance behaviour. The group concluded that the best strategy to address homelessness was to continue to support the Homeless Action Plan [links directly to PDF] and anti-social behaviour through existing bylaws.

Motueka community hospital - a model for other smaller rural communities?

A recent article in the Nelson Mail reports on the opening of the new Motueka Friendship Hospital. The new hospital will be a mix of primary and secondary health care, aged residential care, dementia care, maternity care, medical beds, physiotherapy - a mix of health services designed for the community. The experience of the people of Motueka in raising the funds to have their own community-owned hospital, that is owned and run by a community trust, and not owned by the DHB, may offer some useful insights for other rural areas struggling to retain services.

Feedback needed urgently: Privacy in the home

Carers NZ is asking for feedback from home support workers and those receiving home support about the privacy issues for those receiving services in their homes. This feedback will help inform a new information section about home support in the Carers NZ magazine Family Care.

Carers NZ says: “Having help is wonderful but it can feel as though home is being invaded by a parade of 'outsiders'. Do you have ideas to share with other families about how to minimise this feeling? How do you maintain privacy while also receiving help from third parties? How do workers respect families' need for privacy while working in private households?” Please send your feedback to Carers NZ sara@carers.net.nz by Friday 3 July.

CONFERENCES AND TRAINING

Turning Point Training – 14-15 September, Westpac Trust Stadium Wellington:
Wesley Community Action is offering a 2 day training symposium with Dr Barry Duncan on “how to achieve greater effectiveness in social services”. The training looks at the practice tools to help clients to get the best outcomes out of their relationship to the helping agency. More information on Dr Duncan’s work can be found on www.talkingcure.com and www.whatsrightwithyou.com. The total cost is $375 for both days (GST incl). For more information visit www.wesleyca.org.nz and follow the links to news and events or email symposium@wesleyca.org.nz

Social Service Providers Aotearoa Conference, 17-18 September 2009. Te Puawaitanga o Te Kakano ‘Sowing Seeds of Change’, Flames International Hotel, Whangarei, . Early bird registrations opened on 1 June at www.theorganisation.org.nz

NZ Association of Gerontology & Age Concern NZ Conference 2009, 7-9th October. Living in an Ageing Society, , Wellington Convention Centre, Further info at www.confer.co.nz/ageing2009 or email louise@confer.co.nz

Professional Supervision: Common threads, different patterns - 30 April – 01 May 2010. Supervision Conference at Centra Hotel, Mangere Auckland. Pre-conference workshops on 29 April 2010. Keynote speakers: Tony Morrison (UK), Moana Eruera (NZ), Liz Beddoe (NZ) and Meg Bond & Stevie Holland (UK) TBC. Further info emailing Conference Organiser barbara.a.burt@gmail.com
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