Wednesday 20 July 2011

Policy Watch

The future is already here– it's just not evenly distributed.
William Gibson,
(used by Chief Families Commissioner, Carl Davidson, 50 Thinkers Forum)

"Fair is foul, and foul is fair" –Getting it right equals what?

There has been a lot of talk about ‘fairness’ and ‘equity’ in the last fortnight. Not surprisingly, different individuals and groups see these things differently. We feature a few recent examples of how to be fair here:

1. Everyone has a minimum income for healthy living (public health experts)

This idea comes from a Fact and Action Sheet on Health Inequities and what we need to do about them. Top of the list is “Equitable and fair fiscal and social welfare policy, including progressive taxation, comprehensive and fair social policy, and ensuring that everyone has a minimum income for healthy living. Policy needs to be proportionate to need – … a balance of targeting and universalism“ (Ten next most important actions to reduce health inequities in Aotearoa New Zealand). The sheet was part of a symposium on reducing health inequities featuring health equity expert Michael Marmot (see his UK work Fair Society, Healthy Lives).

2. Grow the “low calorie, low carbon, gluten-free cake” (Minister of Health)

Health Minister, Tony Ryall, who opened the symposium, took a different approach: “What remains fundamental to protecting New Zealanders into the future is a strong growing economy. That is how you get good jobs and secure incomes. It is only through a strong growing economy that can we afford the social investments we want to make. We have to grow the cake…be it a low calorie, low carbon, gluten-free cake! And that is what the whole of government is doing …empowering families through building a stronger economy.”

3. Use local solutions for local needs (50 Thinkers)

The 50 Key Thinkers forum which looks at understanding how social support can best serve families and whānau into the future agreed “families, whānau and communities themselves need to be empowered to develop, design and deliver the support they need. Local solutions for local needs often work better than national, one-size-fits-all programmes.”

4. Direct benefits to those most affected – (Revenue Minister)

Revenue Minister, Peter Dunne has been working on changes to the child support system. Referring to the “more than 200,000 New Zealand children directly reliant on the child support scheme”, Mr Dunne said that parents need to feel “that the scheme is fair and is there for the benefit of their children.” A summary of the submissions on child support can be found at A Bill containing changes to the child support system is expected later this year.

5. Equity between the generations – (Medical Journal Editorial)

“[T]he age of entitlement to government superannuation, 65 years, is the same as that in 1899 when life expectancy was 25 years less! And we live in a society with one of the highest child poverty rates in the OECD. … [W]e want to celebrate and protect the success of our superannuation scheme, but not to the point of gross inequity compared to younger (and more brown-faced, to be frank) people. … [I]t is time that the age of entitlement for superannuation is lifted (as it has in other OECD countries), and allow some redistribution to other sections of our society, particularly younger people.” Don Brash has reiterated the Retirement Commissioner’s concern that the current superannuation scheme is not sustainable and that the baby boomers may get their super at the expense of future generations.

6. Ending marginalisation (Medical Association Chair)

“… a more rapid, comprehensive whole of government approach is needed. We need greater collaboration and coordination between government agencies to focus on the causes of ill health and inequities." "Unless we have a coordinated approach to addressing housing, employment, educational and other disparities and end the marginalisation of some groups in our society, all our efforts in providing quality health care will be undermined." ‘This includes a fair and equitable social welfare system, more investment in early childhood to ensure the best start in life, and enhancing Maori, Pacific and Asian policies and programmes that are culturally appropriate’ Paul Ockelford, New Zealand Medical Association Chair. Read their equity statement here

Opportunities to help reduce inequality

NZCCSS provides opportunities for people to help reduce inequality:

On our website on reducing inequality: See

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Just arrived is more reported medical evidence on the association between inequality and ill health. A study of stroke patients from Australia and New Zealand shows those from the most disadvantaged areas had a 70 per cent higher chance of having a stroke than those in wealthy suburbs. Those living in poorer places also were more likely to have strokes at younger ages on average: 68 compared with 77 for those in wealthier areas. Find the article abstract here

(Wel)Fairness for our children

Professor of Child and Youth Health, at Auckland University, Innes Asher has written to the members of the Ministerial Group on Welfare Reform about children’s wellbeing. Her concerns arise from her work as a paediatrician. “Our children’s health outcomes are poor by international standards; ... some preventable childhood diseases are increasing; and … under-resourcing of the most disadvantaged children by state policies is a factor.” She identifies 8 issues:

1. Every child reaching his/her full potential is necessary for the economic future of New Zealand.

2. The importance of investing in the early years so that children reach their potential.

3. Requiring a sole parent to job seek when baby is one year old will be damaging to some children. Requiring all sole parents to job seek when their youngest is three years old will be unduly harsh for some children.

4. Sanctions against sole parents who do not comply will harm children, due to reduction in resources.

5. The reality for children of sole parents is harsher than [the Welfare Working Group] report describes.

6. New Zealanders work when there are jobs.

7. Threshold and abatement of earnings from paid work should be structured to enable the transition for parents from ‘not working’ to ‘working part time’ to ‘working full time’

8. Cuts in welfare in 1991 drove children into poverty, not parents into work.

Innes Asher’s concerns are supported by Every Child Counts who point out that children do not choose their circumstances.

Controversial visitor on welfare reform

The Maxim Institute is bringing the UK’s Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, on Friday 22 July, to deliver the Annual Sir John Graham Lecture. Duncan Smith established the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), “an independent think tank committed to tackling poverty and social breakdown.” ‘Now he has to work to improve the welfare system, on a shoestring budget’. More. The Auckland Action Against Poverty Group is planning to picket the lecture as Duncan Smith has ‘presided over horrendously damaging reforms to the UK welfare system, including the removal of hundreds of thousands of people from invalids’ benefits and increased privatisation of services.’ They worry that UK polices could be applied here. More.

New Ex-USA, Ex-UK head for Work and Income

Janet Grossman is the new head of Work and Income. Janet originally comes from the USA, but was most recently living in the UK and worked as Director of Strategy and Execution for the Northern European Division of Computer Sciences Corporation. A former job was as Chief Operating Officer for the Pensions Service within the Department of Work and Pensions.

Fewer unemployment benefits

Numbers on unemployment benefits have fallen for the fifth month in a row. The Minister of Social Development says much of the decrease is amongst young people. It is possible the Government Future Focus policy is also having an impact here, with people on the unemployment benefit having to reapply after one year. This has resulted in over 5,000 benefit cancellations.

Guidelines to help with dementia

More than three years in the making, these Guidelines are the product of a Mental Health of Older People and Dementia project and now available online through the Ministry of Health.

NZCCSS’s input into the process includes a report on dementia services - read it on our website Working Together We Can Respond to Dementia.

The Guidelines recognise the need for “shared pathways” between mental health services and health of older people services, as well as clearly defined liaison and processes around the responsibility for support and intervention.

Houses coming; more needed

The Housing Innovation Fund (HIF) provides community housing providers and Iwi / Māori organisations with money to build or buy community rental housing and to provide for affordable home ownership opportunities. Housing Minister Phil Heatley announced HIF funding for projects in Christchurch and Auckland. “Pukaki Ahu Whenua Trust will build 10 houses in Mangere providing long term affordable rental accommodation for low to middle income families on Maori freehold land.” Nga Hau e Wha will build nine houses on Maori land in Christchurch that will be leased back to Housing New Zealand under the Home Lease Programme.

Also, the Selwyn Foundation is getting $500,000 for housing for single elderly people in Auckland. The Foundation will contribute $1,615,000. Government wants to use its new Social Housing Unit to “deliver nearly twice as much cash plus land and surplus state housing, to significantly boost the contribution third sector providers make towards growing the volume of niche, social and affordable housing in New Zealand.” Housing is a big issue, particularly in Auckland where the housing shortfall is estimated to be 90,575 dwellings in the 20 years to 2031.

Permanent homes for children

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says “329 children have gone out of State care into permanent homes as a result of Home for Life.” According to the Minister, 75 per cent have gone into homes with family or whānau. Home for Life includes a support package with financial support for clothing and other costs ($2,500 upfront payment); Babycare pack – cot, pushchair, bottles and babywear; assistance with legal costs; CYF support; parenting seminars; and respite breaks for carers to take time out.

In brief

Drivers of Crime progress report

Addressing the drivers of crime is a whole-of government priority which covers maternity and early parenting support, addressing behavioural issues in young children, reducing alcohol related harm, and alternative approaches to managing low level offenders. The latest Drivers of Crime progress report can be seen here

Help for Canterbury mental health services

As a result of the earthquakes, Canterbury DHB is being given extra resources to help look after the population’s mental health needs. Extra assistance includes ‘extended GP consultations, increased counselling support and a new specialist earthquake response team. More information at


Community Response Fund

Applications for the seventh round of the Community Response Fund are now open. The CRF was established in May 2009 to help social services deal with increased demand and cost pressures as a result of the recession. It has been extended with $25 million available in three funding rounds of about $8 million each in 2011/2012 ‘The funding acknowledges the vital role social service providers play and confirms Government is backing them’ according to Paula Bennett. Application forms and more information can be found on

More Ladders, Fewer Snakes – NZ Institute paper on reducing youth disadvantage

More ladders, fewer snakes proposes that accelerated roll-out of e-learning to low decile schools and improving the school-to-work transition will materially reduce youth unemployment and resulting social issues.” Find report here

What’s on

Promoting the wellbeing of Canterbury: Community and Voluntary Sector Forum to agree on key messages to convey to recovery leaders, and the wider community. 28 July, 9-3 pm. Hosted by Council of Social Services in Christchurch and Te Runaka ki Otautahi o Kai Tahu, and featuring a NZCCSS speaker (Morning tea and lunch provided). Registration is essential at by 21 July.

Other notices

Law Commission Review of the Incorporated Societies Act 1908. The Law Commission wants submissions from as wide a range of sources as possible. Issues include whether a new Incorporated Societies Act should also replace the ability to incorporate under the Charitable Trusts Act. The issues paper relating to this review can be downloaded here. Submissions close on 30 September 2011.

Mandatory social worker registration? The timeframe for this has been extended. The Social Workers’ Registration Board want feedback by 1 August 2011.

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