Tuesday 1 November 2011

Policy Watch

No matter what your faith or beliefs, consider your values, and then consider what direction you think our Government should take to ensure a fairer future for all New Zealanders

Rodney Macann, National Leader, Baptist Churches of New Zealand

Church Leaders’ Vision for a Fair Society

Leaders from the Anglican, Assemblies of God, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian churches, and The Salvation Army have just published a Vision for a Fair Society. This vision deserves our attention, no matter what our views.

It has some great lines:

“… a world where people respond to the needs of both their ‘neighbour’ and the stranger, …”

“Responsibilities arise out of a sense that we are members of a single human family.”

“We see the responsibility of the State as providing for a just sharing of society's wealth and resources. This includes: adequate income for everyone, fair taxation policies, access to good health care, affordable housing, and living sustainably. These are not privileges but part of the common heritage of humanity.”

“… we cannot develop alone and it is in interaction that we discover and achieve our possibilities and discover different situations.”

Frame it and put it on the wall. You’ll find it at http://www.nzccss.org.nz/uploads/publications/ChurchLeadersFairSoc%20Oct11FINAL.pdf

Fair society ideas

1. Get a Children's Act and a Children's Action Plan - Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills. The idea would be to hold chief executives and ministries accountable for measurable targets e.g. reducing child poverty, etc., cross-ministry strategies; an annual independent national report on the state of the nation's children; better training and systems to identify and act on neglect in all professions; require services to share information with each other, if asked more

2. Do something about health inequities

New Zealand needs to be to a leader in reducing health inequities. WHO members worldwide are called to take action on the social determinants of health which include: children’s early years, education, economic status, employment conditions, housing and effective health care systems. Public Health Association National Executive Officer Gay Keating, says “A good start would be a visible cross-party agreement on a strategy for improving the environment in which children live.” "At the moment, our poor children die at a faster rate than every other OECD country except Mexico and Turkey.” Countries must act on social determinants of health, because they are “indispensable to promote human wellbeing, peace, prosperity and sustainable development.”

It is urgently needed. The NZahead report, produced by the New Zealand Institute, gives New Zealand a “D” for income inequality and shows ‘children, suffer higher rates of hardship in comparison to other OECD countries.’

Want to help reduce income inequality? Visit http://www.closertogether.org.nz/ and follow the instructions.

3. Raise national super age to 67

Labour plans raise the age of eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation to 67 and to make KiwiSaver compulsory. The idea is to make superannuation more sustainable by graduating the increase between 2020 and 2033. They may be a bit late – the first of the baby-boomers turn 65 this year.

4. Lower Māori superannuation to age 60– Mana party

For the simple reason Māori life expectancy is shorter. According to Hone Harawira, “new born Maori expected to live 72.1 years while the average non-Māori can expect to reach 81 years of age.” “Māori are disproportionately in the younger age groups, so as well as missing out on pensions, Maori workers will be paying for non-Maori’s retirement.” They have a younger age for aborginals in Australia, so why can’t we do the same thing here?

5. Do everything differently - Anne Salmond, Professor of Maori Studies and Anthropology

The credit downgrade people have done us a favour – we need to think differently about how we do things. The old policies do not work. It is not ok to regard people as a resource and sweep aside ideas about “truth, justice and the common good.” It requires caring for our children better, less consumerism and debt, and a truly free press. Above all, it needs a change of heart more

It helps if you have a home

Four funds have been set up to assist with social housing:

Putea Whakatipu: $22.35m for organizations seeking to build or buy social and/or affordable housing

Putea Maori: $3m in grants specifically for Maori organizations planning to build or buy social and/or affordable housing

Putea Taiwhenua: $5m in grants for organisations planning to build or buy social and/or affordable housing in rural areas.

Putea Kaupapa Motuhake: $5m in grants to not for profit organizations seeking to build or buy social and/or affordable housing – details.

Tariana Turia is encouraging “all iwi and Maori organisations with a passion for Maori housing, to put in an application in order to enable whānau to build up their capacity to respond to the desperate housing need of so many of our people”.

Housing Minister, Phil Heatley, says the funds will be distributed via a tender process run by the Social Housing Unit. "This drive to increase the pool of social and affordable housing coincides with Housing New Zealand’s current push to significantly upgrade their old housing stock, better use large sections, and ensure state housing is available for those most in need," he says. The full tender documents are available through the Government Electronic Tenders Service (GETS) at http://www.gets.govt.nz/

The PSA is concerned Housing New Zealand is getting rid of up to 150 staff and that tenancy managers will no longer assist tenants with wider social problems, leaving them to approach social agencies unsupported.

Community agency, Lifewise, laments the lack of any government strategy on homelessness – leaving community agencies and local councils tackling the problem. Lifewise has helped more than 180 people get off the streets and into some long term accommodation in the last three years. They notice a critical shortage of accommodation in Auckland and too many families living in “cramped, unacceptable housing conditions.”

Lifewise’s concern is shared by The Salvation Army, who has found no improvement in living conditions in the last five years in one of Auckland’s more over-crowded suburbs. The door-to-door household survey in the South Auckland suburb of Harania West shows up to 23 per cent of residents, and up to 29 per cent of children, live in overcrowded conditions more. The Salvation Army estimates Auckland has a shortage of around 13,000 dwellings, with a need for 7000 to 8000 new dwellings a year.

And your children are ok

“There is a virulent dry rot in the foundations of our society” said Mr Roy Reid, Grey Power Federation President, “that must be cut out.” GreyPower is appalled at the increasing number of children dependent on benefits. They worry for the future and “many older people are grandparents who are asked to help with difficult family situations.” “It saddens them all to see so many young people lacking the chance they all deserve for a good start to the lives.” Grey Power want Government to adopt relevant economic and social policies to reduce the income gap between the rich and the less well off in New Zealand.

So do we. Go to http://www.closertogether.org.nz/ to help

Paula Bennett, Minister of Social Development, has announced there will be 149 extra full time social workers supporting children in decile 1-3 schools. This brings the total number to 673. The change costs $11.1 million per year. An extra 96 frontline CYF care and protection social workers are also being funded, costing $10.3 million per year. The extra funding is comes from existing budgets. Which existing budgets we wonder?

At least the money will not be coming from Kidsline, a telephone counseling organisation for kids, which gets no government funding. Bullying remains the number one reason children call Kidsline, but 12% of all calls now are about anxiety and stress. Kidsline asks us not to belittle children’s concerns. Anxious stressed children may become more aggressive or extremely withdrawn – both can worsen difficulties they are having. Listening to children now make a big difference later.

And you have enough to eat

Auckland City Missioner Diane Robertson is concerned people cannot access Work and Income hardship grants because the rules have tightened. "We had a direct correlation between tightening in food grants and an increase in our numbers.” “The Salvation Army also gave out 6.4 per cent more food parcels in the three months to June than in the same period last year, excluding earthquake-related grants in Christchurch” despite a reduction in unemployment.

Prime Minister John Key has acknowledged there is a "growing underclass." After visiting budgeting services and food banks, he says “I think it's fair to say they've seen an increase in people accessing their services.” “He said he believed welfare reform - planned for National's second term - would help lift people out of poverty. So too would education policies.”

And don’t have to deal with drugs or violence

Government has announced a $10 million it package to reduce harm from alcohol and drug abuse to be funded from alcohol excise revenue. The programme focuses “the biggest treatment gap - people with mild to moderate alcohol and drug issues." It includes:

$1 million to increase the use of alcohol screening and brief interventions across settings e.g. as primary health care, accident and emergency, youth health centres, school counseling services, District Courts, and prisons;

$2 million for nationally consistent, enhanced alcohol and drug services for youth;

$1 million for programmes for drink-drivers to help reduce repeat drink driving and enhance public safety;

$3.5 million for low-cost, high-volume community-based treatment for offenders who have mild to moderate alcohol and drug problems;

$2 million for alcohol and drug treatment services to support a five-year Drug Court pilot in Auckland;

$500,000 for training and workforce development for more than 500 front-line personnel per year. More.

Meantime, Richard Wood is the new Chair of the Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families, replacing Peter Hughes. The Taskforce co-ordinates government, non-government, judiciary and Crown work to minimise violence within families. Richard Wood is retiring in December from his position as Deputy Chief Executive of Family and Community Services within the Ministry of Social Development. http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/richard-wood-lead-family-violence-taskforce

And can grow old with dignity

Age Concern is really pleased Capital and Coast DHB is dropping telephone assessments of people needing home help. They want other DHBs to do the same. Some older people have found their home help cut following a brief telephone interview. Older people are often very private, will not talk about personal matters to some stranger over the phone, and will tell you they are all right when they are clearly not as they do not wish to trouble you. However, all is not rosy. Face to face assessments have been allocated $11 million this year – a drop from the $13 million received last year.

How to help our children

Every Child Counts have created a ‘Community Wheel of Action’ containing actions all of us can take for children. You can get the colour version, or the black and white one .

Meantime, Government has announced plans to extend the free medical care for children under six to after-hours clinics. The $7 million cost would be funded from “efficiencies elsewhere in the health service.” As is the case with the additional social workers in schools, we are not sure where ‘elsewhere’ is. We do know the ‘most conservative estimate puts the state sector at 1702 positions fewer than when the current government came to office in 2008 .


Social Justice in the OECD –How Do the Member States Compare? Sustainable Governance Indicators 2011 http://www.sgi-network.org/pdf/SGI11_Social_Justice_OECD.pdf

Election Resources from The Salvation Army social policy and parliamentary unit http://www.salvationarmy.org.nz/research-media/social-policy-and-parliamentary-unit/general-election/

Lifewise 101 ways to live wisely – a list of everyday actions that can help our world http://lifewise.org.nz/Content/Files/User/101-ways-poster-2011-ed.pdf. Contact Lifewise for hard copies lifewise@lifewise.org.nz or 09 302 5390 (A3 size folded to A4 for postage) for free to anyone wanting one (or a batch to pass on to others). Get a tip a day at http://www.facebook.com/lifewiseNZ or http://twitter.com/#!/LIFEWISENZ

What’s on

Fun night out: A fun, fast and furious evening of political debate - Four Community Election Forums run by community organisations and unions. Party spokespeople will have 2 minutes each to answer questions on: Welfare, Public service cuts, Collective bargaining and a living wage, Early childhood education, ACC, Family carers and paid work, Disabled persons’ issues, Healthy workplaces. Click here for details:

Aged Residential Care Debate Watch the unions and employer representatives in aged residential care slug it out (verbally) in Wellington on Friday 11th (I hope they realise this is Armistice Day!!) as they debate aged care policy. Come along ready to be part of a noisy audience.
Gerontology Ageing and Diversity Conference 2012
Waipuna Hotel and Conference Centre, Auckland, Thursday 13 to Saturday 15 September 2012. Details here.

Benefit rights training 1 Dec 2011, Wellington
Training on: basic benefit eligibility, income supports that may be available to non-beneficiaries with low incomes, helping Health and; Disability and Social services clients access all the help they can to improve their wellbeing. Training designed specifically for those working in the Health Sector, Family Start; Whānau Supports Programme, Disability Sector, Mental Health and Community and Social Support Services.

Further contact Sione Feki, phone 04 5709193, E-mail: mailto:sione.feki@huttvalleydhb.org.nz

Community Research Seminar 2011 Thursday 17th November Unitec Marae, Mount Albert, Auckland, A one-day event for community organisations, government and academic institutions, iwi and hapu, to gather, network, share andhear the latest research in Aotearoa New Zealand more.

Poverty and Families
Problem Gambling Foundation and Poverty Action Waikato gathering with 2011 Election Candidates - Friday 11 November (11.11.11), 6pm – 8.30pm, Methodist Centre, 62 London Street, Hamilton. More info: Rose Black and Anna Cox 07 8565820 Email: rose@anglicanaction.org.nz or mailto:anna@anglicanaction.org.nz

Other notices

Enrolling to vote

Get enrolled here.

Voting on how we vote

This election we vote about the voting system. More about the options and what we will be asked to vote on here.

A Family Therapy Reference Group is looking toward the future development of family therapy in Aotearoa New Zealand. This group was originally organised by the Ministry of Health and the Werry Centre and now comprises a diverse range of experienced family therapists. They are welcoming new members. Contact The Family Centre PO Box 31-050, Lower Hutt, Wellington 5010, Aotearoa/New Zealand Phone: 64-4-569-7112 Fax: 64-4-569-7323, 71 Woburn Road, Lower Hutt, Wellington 5010, Aotearoa/New Zealand http://www.familycentre.org.nz/

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