Monday 21 September 2009

Policy Watch

Quote of the week: “Thus as we survey the fall-out from the present recession,
and peer into a very uncertain future, our energies must be directed toward
discerning not so much how we can all get richer again, but how to improve the
psychological and social wellbeing of our society” (Andrew Bradstock, 2009
Ferguson Lecture)

Second Vulnerability Report

The Vulnerability Report No 2 can now be found on our website It covers the period from April to July 2009 and pulls together a range of official government data and statistics from community based agencies, many of whom are continuing to report increased demand for services, particularly food, emergency accommodation and budgeting. The report also has a link at the end of the report to the second Background Information Sheet. Issues in the report were highlighted in the Sunday Star Times on the 13th September, a few days prior to its release. Also read the NZCCSS press release on the report. Subsequent to the second report going online the NZ Federation of Family Budgeting Services released statistics showing “the average debt levels for our clients increased by 25% since last year. The recession is really hurting families…”.

Every Child Counts Summit

On 16 September the Every Child Counts Coalition brought together 60 delegates from a range of agencies to a Summit to discuss the impact of the recession on children. Economist David Grimmond (who wrote the Infometrics report on the cost of child abuse mentioned in the last issue of Policy Watch) gave a keynote address identifying the six regions most likely to experience disadvantage (Gisborne, Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Manawatu, Wanganui and Southland). A plan from the Summit was presented to the Minister of Housing Phil Heatley containing 42 recommendations, many of which are advocacy positions of NZCCSS. This report will be presented to Cabinet.

Disability and Poverty in Auckland

A new report titled Step Up: Decision-makers get it right for disabled Aucklanders was released early this month, and highlights that half of the 77,000 disabled people in Auckland live on the poverty line, even those with tertiary qualifications. The quality of social support services including home based services impact greatly on the ability of disabled people to fully participate. Other findings are summarised in a press release by AUT.

Benefit numbers still climbing but more slowly than before

In a September 11 press release the Minister gives the latest benefit figures and outlined how the government is responding. There are now 59,151 people receiving the Unemployment Benefit (an increase of 16% since June and a total of 323,160 people receiving some kind of main benefit.

Community Response Fund

On September 4 MSD announced which organisations were successful in their application to the first funding round of the Community Response Fund. Nearly $9m was distributed to 164 organisations. Just over half (56%) of applicants were successful. Interestingly 30% of them were to agencies not currently funded by MSD. More stats and links to press releases can be found at on the FACS website. The second round closes at 5pm on 26th September.

High Trust Model of Funding for Social Services

As part of the governments ‘radical reshaping’ of how it contracts and funds social services, a new High Trust Model has been announced by the Minister. As outlined in her press release, the new model draws together multiple contracts into a single simple contract and provides greater flexibility in how services are delivered. The model is to be trialled with 20 providers. In a press release by the NZ Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations, Director Tina Reid has welcomed the announcement.

IHC Employment Court Ruling

Currently caregivers for IHC are paid $34 per night for sleepovers (nightshifts). A recent employment court ruling indicated that carers should be paid at the minimum wage. Disability organisations have said that this would blow their budgets and estimate it would cost them an additional $40m per year in their wage bill should the Employment Court decision be upheld. There is no certainty that the Government would cover this additional cost. The judges have reserved their decision. We will keep you updated as this decision could have broader implications for members.

Families Commission – advocates for expansion of paid parental leave in NZ

The Families Commission is advocating for an expansion of paid parental leave to 13 months, plus a month’s paid leave for fathers/partners. Currently the government funds (at minimum wage levels) up to 14 weeks of paid parental leave, which is pretty miserly when compared with other developed countries. The Commission’s research shows, as many of us would expect, that the early years are critical and poor developmental experiences during this time can have significant social impacts. The expansion of paid parental leave is also a recommendation made at the Every Child Counts Conference (discussed earlier).

Fresh Start and Break Away

The government recently released more details on their Fresh Start package for Young Offenders and the Break Away programme. The former offers nearly 3000 young people various forms of support (community youth programmes, mentoring, Parenting and A and D orders, military style camps etc). The total value of the package over four years is $72.4m. The $12.1m Breakaway package offers holiday activity programmes, residential respite camps and a Prime Ministers Youth Programme. The PM described the rationale behind these initiatives in a speech at the Salvation Army Citadel in Wellington.

Never Ever Shake a Baby

In an effort to ‘protect our most vulnerable infants’ the government is launching the Never Ever Shake a Baby Campaign. The Minister has said that is “this campaign is the first step we’re taking toward trying to make a difference to New Zealand’s horrific child abuse rate”. Other worthy government initiatives to reduce child abuse are outlined in a recent media release.

Cost of raising children contributes to Review of Child Support System

New research has calculated that it cost $250k to raise a child to the age of 18 years and this excludes lost earnings and childcare costs. On average it cost $280 per week to raise a child. Teenagers cost 2-3 times as much as toddlers. These calculations have been made to help contribute to a review of child support being carried out by the Minister of Revenue Peter Dunne. Changes to the rules around child support could affect up to 200,000 families in NZ. Of course low income families commit a greater percentage of the earnings on raising their children, particularly for larger families. Details are given in this podcast. A discussion paper on the Child Support Review is due out sometime in September.

New NZ research on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Jill Worrall has recently written Grandparents and Whanau/Extended Families Raising Kin Children in Aotearoa NZ: A View over time. This research follows on from earlier research undertaken by the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Trust in 2004 and published in March 2005. The latest report estimates that there are more than 10,000 children in kin/whanau care in NZ. It describes many of the rewards and challenges that grandparents face and make nine recommendations of how to assist grandparents in this vital role. The report elaborates on many of the themes raised by grandparents interviewed for the NZCCSS’s Grassroots Voices research, particularly the financial stress of raising grandchildren for people of low incomes. This was particularly the case for Maori grandparents.

Ending Intergenerational Dysfunction

A study group of the Hutt Valley Branch of the NZ Federation of Graduate Women has produced a paper on Ending Intergenerational Dysfunction in NZ Families: the Importance of Early Intervention. The report advocates for investment in intensive targeted early intervention programmes.

All Aboard – A Canadian strategy for poverty reduction

The Caledon Institute of Social Policy has recently released an interesting paper All Aboard Manitoba’s Poverty Train (September 2009) which describes their four pronged whole-of-government approach to addressing the complex issue of poverty reduction. Actions relate to safe affordable housing; educations, jobs and income support; strong healthy families and coordinated programmes and services. Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from this coordinated approach, after-all Manitoba is home to 1.2m people and is almost the same size as NZ.

Supporting an Ageing Population

The Caledon Institute has also released a timely paper on the health implications for an ageing population. In New Ingredients for the Health Care Mix, they emphasise the importance of valuing unpaid caregivers and suggest policy responses to support these caregivers such encouraging the development of secondary suites (granny flats) as an affordable housing option of ageing parents, greater provisions for home support and flexible workplace policies.

PSO Rest Home Gets Four Year Certification

The ODT has reported that after a recent quality audit Taieri Court Rest Home in Mosgiel became one of twelve aged care residential centres in the country to receive a four year certification.

Porirua’s Community Organisations Stocktake

The Organisation Stocktake Report undertaken by Porirua City Council provides a snapshot of the current general health of community infrastructure in Porirua City particularly to capture the influence of the current economic climate. Nine case studies are provided and issues identified as similar to those in the NZCCSS Vulnerability Report. The middle section of the report succinctly summarises the changing nature of community funding reflecting governments ever changing priorities.

If it can’t run away it’s under review…

The government is very keen on undertaking reviews. If you’re interested in the recommendations from the Health Review Group check out the beehive website. I’ve also come across notes from the second Tax Working Group Session which is exploring different scenarios re WFF and GST. The terms of reference for the ACC review are on the Department of Labour website. Legal aid is being reviewed, the Ministry of Education is reviewing Special Education, the Building Act is to be reviewed in 2010.

The Climate Change Bill recently became law incorporating a revised Emissions Trading Scheme. The revised ETS will have a direct impact on households with an anticipated increase of 5% in the cost of electricity and 3.5c per litre increase in petrol during the transition period to 1 January 2013, doubling thereafter.

Goff on Gouging

“Power Bills rose relentlessly and we didn’t fix the system” – Goff apologises for not stopping power companies from price gouging in a speech made at the Annual Labour Conference in Rotorua. He also apologises for a range of other issues too – from smacking to light bulbs and shower heads. Let’s hope that more pressure builds on the current government to take steps to make power more affordable particularly given the impact of the ETS on prices next year. Will the ETS increases also incur GST? And will power companies increase prices anyway? Scarcely bears thinking about given the numbers of low income people can’t pay their power bills at current levels.

Dementia Today - Enliven National Learning Workshop, 16 October 2009

This workshop is for people working with dementia, and their managers. Brentwood Motel and Conference Centre, 16 Kemp Street, Kilbirnie. More information

Social Service Industry Training Organisation

The Social Services ITO is launching a new service to recognise the inhouse training programmes offered by social service agencies. The service helps staff and volunteers gain national qualifications and follows a 12 month feasibility study.

Selwyn Centre for Ageing and Spirituality Workshops

The Selwyn Centre for Ageing and Spirituality is offering two interactive workshops on ageing and spirituality. The workshops discuss the spiritual changes and challenges that come with age, and how support workers can assist patients or residents to meet their spiritual needs. More info on the Selwyn Centre website.

And for those of you liked the quote of the week (or more correctly - fortnight) you may be interested in the full article by Andrew Bradstock, Mind the Gap: Inequality, theology and the quest for an inclusive society and another lecture given to the University of Auckland School of Theology, Profits Without Honour? Economics, Spirituality and the current global recession.

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