Tuesday 6 October 2009

Policy Watch

The technical recession is over

The recession is over according to the newspapers, with the release of new GDP figures showing a very tiny increase in economic growth in the June quarter. However, economists are still predicting that the unemployment rate will keep rising from 6% to approximately 7%. Because the growth in GDP is so small, Statistics NZ is quoted in a media release as saying “no conclusions can be drawn that this is a turning point”. Council suspects that the latest figures will have little impact on the workload of social service providers and will be able to monitor this via our Vulnerability reports. The next report is due for release in mid December.

Superfund also recovering

The NZ Superfund was set up by the previous government to help save towards the growing costs of super payments in the future. The fund is reported to have started to recoup some of the losses made during the recession. Unfortunately the National government chose to suspend voluntary payments to the scheme for up to 11 years allowing for ad hoc payments only. We remain concerned about the government’s preparedness for NZ’s demographic changes and the financial implications of this. After all, Statistic NZ has projected that more than 100,000, will be added to the population every five years from 2011 to 2036. We need to plan ahead to ensure older people have sufficient income to keep them out of poverty.

Payroll Giving

The Taxation (International Taxation, Life Insurance, and Remedial Matters) Bill passed its third reading in Parliament last week – paving the way for the introduction of payroll giving. Payroll giving enables donations to go directly from a person’s pay to a chosen community organisation. The scheme will be administered through the PAYE tax system, so people whose employers sign up for the scheme will receive the tax benefits of their donations each payday, without having to present donation receipts or wait to claim at the end of a tax year. More information is available in the e-newsletter of OCVS. Payroll giving (and other tax changes) have been welcomed by Community and Voluntary Sector, Volunteering NZ and the NZ Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations.

HNZC Evictions

We are following with some interest the final outcome in the legal process HNZC is undertaking to evict ‘troublesome’ tenants via 90 day notices. The situation in Farmers Crescent in Pomare (Lower Hutt) is significant as it sets a precedent for future cases. While the CE of HNZC is reported to be saying that “Housing NZ was taking a tougher stance on severe antisocial behaviour in order to protect the community” it beggars the question of what can be done to meet the housing needs to families with gang affiliations if HNZC puts them in the too hard basket. If not HNZC then who? Perhaps some lateral thinking is needed that brings in community based social services and other government resources to ‘problem’ streets and aids the community to find their own solutions. It’s a shame resources are being spent on security and legal battles rather than seeing this situation as an opportunity for a community renewal type programme. Eviction ultimately shifts rather than solves problems.

Packed to the Rafters - & it’s not a TV show

NZCCSS has been concerned about the direction of NZ criminal justice policies for some time. Prison numbers peaked at 8509 on September 21. In a beehive press release the Minister is reported as saying "we now have more prisoners behind bars than at any other time in NZ's history" - more disturbing is the later comment "our prison system will run out of baseline beds around February next year". Hence the hurried plans for increased double bunking and the conversion of shipping containers into prison cells. Due to the safety concerns of its members the prison staff union has not agreed to the double bunking proposals which has lead the Corrections CE to "threaten guards that existing prisons will be fast tracked into private management unless they agree to cram in extra offenders" in a press release.

Innovative Lifetime Design adopted by Salvation Army

New independent living units for older people being built by the Salvation Army are being used to trial the Lifemark lifetime design approach to building housing that is designed to assist people to age in place. Read more in a Lifemark media release.

Tariana on Whanau Ora

Recently Tariana Turia, spokesperson for the Maori Party and Associate Minister for Social Development, spoke with Kathryn Ryan on the Radio NZ Nine to Noon programme about the development of Whanau Ora. The Maori Party is seeking to pool funding from the Ministries of Health, Education, Justice, Social Development and Housing to directly fund social service providers working with Maori. It could potentially top $1b. The aim of Whanau Ora is to “restore their own rangatiratanga instead of being paralysed by state funded dependency.” Listen to more at: ntn-20090922-0920-Whanau_Ora_policy-048.mp3

In a Place I Call My Own: Support Networks of Older People Ageing in the Community

This report is based on interviews with older people who face significant challenges living in a place they call their own. It tells the stories of five individuals, their families, friends and communities, outlining how they have together met the challenges of supporting an older person in need.

Spot Audits for rest homes

The Minister of Health Tony Ryall announced the commencement of spot audits of rest homes from 1 October. The Minister has said that “Certification and auditing, and publishing results should provide residents and their families with an assurance of quality care".

HNZC to provide advice on housing options

The government has responded to the chronic shortage in state houses not by increasing supply but by setting up eight pilot Options and Advice Services to help people on low incomes find accommodation. Options include private market rentals and home ownership. It will be interesting to see how helpful this new service could be given that most of the 10,000 families waiting for a HNZC home can’t afford to buy or rent privately and are probably acutely aware of this already. It’s the Income Related Rents policy that makes the HNZC houses attractive. I would have thought building more state homes is a better solution as it provides affordable homes, employment and provides the economy with much needed stimulation.

Bradford leaving Parliament

Sue Bradford recently announced her resignation from Parliament effective from 30 October. She will be replaced by Aucklander Dave Clendon, a sustainable business advisor who is of Ngapuhi/Te Roroa and Pakeha heritage and number 10 on the Green List. After 10 years in Parliament relentlessly advocating on behalf of marginalised groups Sue has been very effective in giving a voice to many social justice issues of concern to NZCCSS. She will be sorely missed.

Tendering for breakaway holiday programme

The Government is funding 15,000 places over the 12-week school holiday period to June 2010 and 30,000 places each year from July 2010 for holiday activity programmes aimed at young people aged 11-17 years who would not normally have access to them. If you are interested in being a provider more information is available on the FACS website. Tenders close 16 October.

Getting your voice heard?

A Victoria University research team is still looking for non-profit organisations who are prepared to share their experiences of advocating for political and social change in New Zealand.

“Working with organisations like NZCCSS we are trying to reach as many non-profit organisations as possible to survey them about how they get their views heard at both the local and national levels. In order to get the best community information we need to get responses to our survey from organisations large and small throughout New Zealand” said Sandra Grey, researcher. To get a copy of the survey contact Sandra.grey@vuw.ac.nz ph. 04 4635361 or Charles.sedgwick@vuw.ac.nz ph 04 463 5233 extn 8876.

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