Tuesday 3 April 2012

Policy Watch

It is hard to overstate the importance of that 1987 Appeal Court Ruling [on the Treaty of Waitangi]. New Zealand had fundamentally changed. All subsequent actions by government have had to take account of the Treaty’s significance in Law. We had rediscovered our country’s foundations and in doing so we would grow to differentiate ourselves from other ex-British jurisdictions following the Westminster parliamentary tradition. We would not be a little Australia. We would develop a distinctively New Zealand framework and thinking that would change all aspects of our society. In particular, no longer could Pākehā New Zealanders live in isolation, in absence of any understanding of what the Treaty meant, at least not without marginalising themselves in our society.

Sir Paul Callaghan

Amazing Line-up at Social Services Conference

Kia Hiwa Ra! For those of us in social services trying to keep up with where things are at, this is absolutely not to be missed.

The Auckland Future Wellbeing NZCCSS Social Services conference is on 18-19 April. With changes in the social services sector coming our way, this conference provides an opportunity to hear from key politicians, policy makers and keynote speakers on their ideas for the future. Come to the NZCCSS Future Wellbeing Conference to Review, Rethink and Respond to change and to Renew your networks and commitment to New Zealand’s future wellbeing. This is critical conference is for governance, CEOs and senior management. Register at http://www.socialservicesconf.org.nz/

How to sound knowledgeable about new Government rules

1. Protecting children and vulnerable adults

From the 19th March the Crimes Amendment Act (No 3) makes it offence to:

• fail to protect a child or vulnerable adult from risk of death, grievous bodily harm, or sexual assault (10 years prison);

• offence of sexual grooming now includes offending discovered through covert police investigation;

• maximum penalty for possession of an offensive weapon is now 3 instead of 2 years (concerns about knife crime);

2. Welfare changes for 16 and 17 year olds – submissions needed

It’s called the Social Security (Youth Support and Work Focus) Amendment Bill and it’s been sent to the Social Services Select Committee. According to Minister Bennett, this one includes:

• Payments for rent, power etc with an allowance and a payment card for living costs

• Incentives for youth service providers to help young people into work, education or training. Young people encouraged to undertake budgeting and parenting courses.

• “Guaranteed Childcare Assistance Payment, so childcare costs do not stop young parents from studying.”

• Sharing information between ministries to target school leavers most at risk of coming onto a benefit from age 18.

Submissions will close at 5pm on Friday, 13 April, and should be sent to http://www.parliament.nz/. Hearings will be held in in mid to late April in Wellington, and if required Auckland and Christchurch. If you want to appear before the committee, make sure you include a: name, daytime phone number, and email address.

Tendering for services for young people - Community organisations providing services for youth are being invited to tender for services to “manage young people at risk of long term benefit dependency.” Info is on the Government Electronic Tenders Service (GETS) website from 28 March to 23 April 2012. This is a bit odd given that the legislation has not yet been passed into law.

3. Welfare changes for DPB, Widows, and Women Alone benefit recipients – submissions needed

It’s part of the same Bill, but this bit:

• Work tests sole parents with children five and older [rather than six and older].

• Ensures “sole parents with children 14 and older are available for and supported into full-time work.”

• These work expectations now include Widow’s and Women Alone benefit recipients as well as partners of beneficiaries with children.

• “Enables Work and Income to direct people to prepare for work early.”

• “Requires sole parents who have another child while on a benefit to be available for work after one year, in line with parental leave.”

4. Student loan repayment changes

The Student Loan Scheme Amendment Bill “amends the scheme to shorten repayment holidays from three years to one year and requires borrowers to apply for a repayment holiday. It also requires people taking out loans to leave a third persons contact details with IRD.”

5. Benefit rates increase

The annual increase in benefit payments and superannuation means benefits will increase by 1.77% and New Zealand superannuation will increase by 2.65%. Benefits are tied to the Consumer Price Index; superannuation is tied to 66% of the average net wage.

6. Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Amendment Bill – submissions needed

This is intended to provide greater protection from loan sharks. Among the provisions, it will make it illegal to lend money to someone whose loan repayments would be likely to result in substantial hardship; allow for a ‘cooling off period’ for loan cancellation, provide greater controls on advertising, and enable lenders to be banned for non-compliance.  More information can be found here

Submissions on the bill are due on May 11, and can be made on the Ministry of Consumer Affairs website.

Who is saying what?

Auckland Action Against Poverty: “When placed alongside high unemployment and ongoing attacks on workers’ rights, these welfare changes are really about keeping wages pressed down as low as possible by forcing desperate beneficiaries to compete at the vulnerable end of the labour market.” They also suggest having 3rd parties managing young people’s benefits and lives is the beginning of privatisation of welfare. They call upon “community, church, union and other organisations to join us not only in making submissions on this legislation, but also in taking direct action highlighting the pointless yet punitive nature of the Government’s welfare programme.“

Labour’s Grant Robertson: “What is failing New Zealanders is the Government’s inability to create jobs for people to have.”

“Labour will put forward amendments to leave the [student loan]repayment holiday at three years or as a compromise to move it two years, which aligns more closely with the travel patterns of many graduates."

Catholic Archdiocesan Justice Peace and Development Commission: “Paid work should not always take priority over the sacred role given to parents as caregivers and first educators of their children.” “We have concerns about proposals that the State will use scarce welfare funding to set up privatized training for beneficiaries. Young people have a right to access this in the education system, and many could do this if options were adapted to meet their needs."

An opinion from the Beneficiary Advisory Service: “… We advocate for a community that supports each other; a system that supplies & guarantees enough income for all people, especially parents (so we don’t see children in poverty); a community that doesn’t judge others’ circumstances but is understanding and supportive. Surely this is not too much to ask for: Children are our future!”

Raema Merchant, a social work lecturer at the Eastern Institute of Technology - "Too many people believe child abuse is a cultural issue”.
Age Concern New Zealand is delighted anybody with a close connection to a vulnerable adult who is being abused or neglected; who does not take action is liable to be prosecuted. “Family members and staff in residential care facilities and hospitals are legally required to intervene if they are aware that an older person they are looking after is being abused or neglected.”

Why homes matter

Because they are “ … where our whānau gather, …where we foster our happy memories, …a place that …impacts on our health and … wellbeing … a place to retreat from te ao hurihuri; a site of sanctuary and safety; a haven of peace in our busy lives. .. [W]here sometimes, our babies are born; … a place where our loved ones lie before their final journey. Our homes are our whānau museums; the walls adorned with the photos of our tūpuna and our tamariki. They reflect our penchant for DIY, every room tells a unique story. “

“Where you live, how you live and who you live with – impacts heavily on who we become, what we do, and the quality of our lives.” So we need to address social housing in a way which “holds fast to our tikanga, our traditions and heritage, and takes us forward to living the way our tūpuna taught us, so that we may produce outcomes for whānau that cater to our views on wellbeing.” – Tariana Turia, National Māori Housing Conference

So having a home is really important, which seems to be recognised by Wellington City Council which is taking a multi- agency approach to help with homelessness. The Council estimates there are 200 homeless people in Wellington City – including rough sleepers (compares 160 a year ago). More information: Barbara Burke, Council Communications, phone 803 8527 or 021 227 8527

Having a home in one piece is also important, and when it is not, it needs to be put right. It is not ok for a mother of two children to (a) be left homeless after her drug affected husband wrecked their home and possessions, and (b) be told to pay up by Housing NZ.

Cantabrians displaced from broken homes seem to be struggling to find affordable new accommodation with Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee saying the problems are best left to the market. A new temporary village at Rawhiti Domain is being created to help meet demand for short term rental housing.

Christchurch Women’s Refuge is working with He Waka Tapu to help keep homes safe. They are a crisis intervention service for men in the community as well as a peer support specialist service for both men and women. The idea is to help “men who are currently violent to have healthier relationships by linking them up with those who have overcome family violence as perpetrators. Likewise for women who are in the midst of violent relationships.”
Finally, home is also important for health. The rate of hospital admissions for young Maori - aged under 24 - for rheumatic fever is 23 times higher than non-Maori admissions. Having a decent home makes a big difference as rheumatic fever is associated with overcrowding.

Experts look at poverty

Are we missing something here? The Children’s Commissioner is getting a group of  “13 of the best minds in the country - experts in fields such as health, social policy, business, law and education - to find solutions” to child poverty. Good on him. The next line is curious: “It’s not going to be easy. The answers to child poverty are likely to be complex, plus we’re constrained by the current economic climate.” Maybe the really scary thing is the solutions are not complex, they are easy. The old biblical maxim “whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise” comes to mind. Reducing inequalities is not that hard.

Local Government reforms look at reducing wellbeing

Local Government changes are to focus on infrastructure, and delete references to the social, cultural and environmental well-being of communities, according to Pita Sharples. He is concerned “there are many things councils do now, in social housing, recreation and arts and culture, to make cities and regions more liveable, attractive and healthy, that have huge economic benefits – but those things will not be accounted for under the new statutory regime.” Māori wellbeing could suffer as a result of Māori having reduced input into council decision making.

The Moving Forward Together - NZCCSS Services for Older People Conference held last week in Wellington was a great success. More than 140 participants enjoyed two days of fabulous weather on the Wellington waterfront and they were treated to some outstanding presentations from keynote speakers and in workshops. Victoria Matthews, Anglican Bishop of Christchurch opened the conference with some honest and insightful reflections on Christchurch and Canterbury’s experiences through literally thousands of “seismic events”. Simon Biggs set out a vision for society that re-frames the debate about ageing into one in which we can make the most out of the rich gift of long life modern society has given us. Chris Cunningham mapped out the landscape for older Māori, including the need for mainstream services to meet the needs of older Māori as they age. Australian clown doctor Jean-Paul had the whole conference in fits of laughter as he showed the way to inject humour into caring for older people with dementia. Conference presentations will be online soon on the NZCCSS website

The Key to it all

Prime Minister John Key’s eight priorities. Just imagine if they were- greater equality, application of Treaty of Waitangi principles, economic and social justice etc. Well they’re not quite these. The list is as follows:

1. reduction in long-term welfare dependency.

2. more young children, and particularly Maori and Pacific children, in early childhood education.

3. immunisation rates for infants to increase, and I want to see a substantial reduction in rheumatic fever cases among children.

4. reduction in the number of assaults on children

5. increased proportion of 18-year-olds with NCEA level 2 or an equivalent qualification.

6. a more skilled workforce, with an increase in the number of people coming through with advanced trade qualifications, diplomas and degrees.

7. Reduced crime rate (including violent and youth crime).

8. a reduction in the rate of re-offending


One step at a time; supporting families and whānau in financial hardship, published by the Families Commission explores, in depth, practices that community organisations use when working with families and whānau in financial hardship, and investigates how existing services can support families and whänau more effectively including working within a cultural context. .”

Justice and Peace Commission, Catholic social teaching and the Ports of Auckland industrial dispute. Some good info on the place of work in our lives.

Social determinants of health and outcomes in New Zealand: Editorial in The Lancet about how hospitalisations as a result of infection have risen in both absolute and relative terms, and how those ending up in hospital are more likely to be Māori, Pasifika, socioeconomically disadvantaged.

Te Ohonga Ake: The health of Māori children and young people with chronic conditions and disabilities in New Zealand. 176 pages of Māori child health statistics.

What’s on?

The Future of Charities in New Zealand

1. “Social Investment, the Law, and the Community Interest Company”

Auckland: Thursday 12 April; 1.00pm to 3.00pm, Ferndale House, 830 New North Road, Mt Albert. Wellington: Monday 16 April; 10.00am to 12 noon, Upstairs meeting room, St. Andrews on the Terrace

2. 19 April – Forum – International perspectives on issues affecting the charitable sector in New Zealand, James Cook Hotel Wellington,  Dave Henderson, ANGOA Coordinator, dave.henderson@angoa.org.nz; RSVPs to rsvp@ideasshop.co.nz  More info

Closing the Gap first meeting of the Wellington branch: Location: Conference Room 1, 1st Floor, St Andrews on the Terrace, 30, The Terrace, Wellington. Date / Time: Tuesday, May 1st 2012 from 7pm to 9pm. Short presentation followed by group discussions to organise where we go from here.

Last word

“Ka tanuku! Ka tanuku!

Ka tanuku koa te tihi ki Hikurangi, ka tanuku!

Ka waipuke! Ka waipuke!

Ko Waiapu te waipuke roimata, puta noa atu ki te wahapu ki Rangitukia, ki Ohinewaiapu!

Ngati Porou! Ngati Rakaipaka! Kua pani koutou!

Kei te tangi hotuhotu te motu ki a koutou ko to koutou rangatira!

Aue! te mamae!”
Hone Kaa, of Ngati Porou and Ngati Kahungunu descent, child advocate, loved and respected broadcaster, Anglican churchman, much loved member of his whānau and hapū, died in Auckland last Thursday night. He will be greatly missed and our thoughts, prayers and aroha go to all those mourning his loss.
“No reira e te rangatira, takoto mai, takoto mai, takoto mai.”

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