Friday 22 February 2013

Policy Watch

As an agreement between Māori rangatira and the British Crown, the Treaty had in 1840 established a framework for the government and settlement of New Zealand. Both Māori and Pākehā had reasons for signing, and for committing to a relationship together. For me it was about hope—hope for a better future

PM’s Better Future Recipe

Hope for a better future entails doing better together.    The PM reminded of us of his recipe ingredients at his speech to the North Harbour Club back on the 25th of January.  It goes like this:

“We’ve made a huge turnaround in the government’s books, we’ve brought in the biggest changes to the tax system in a generation, and we’re making significant changes to reform the welfare system and strengthen work obligations.

Among other things, we’ve introduced 90-day trials; set time limits for the consenting of large projects under the RMA; introduced a competitive new system for awarding oil and gas exploration permits; got ACC back into good financial shape; and kick-started a multi-billion dollar programme of infrastructure investment.”

Just to make sure Ministers do not slack around in achieving this better future, the Prime Minister has told Ministers “to step up momentum, building on the work we’ve already done over the last four years”

Meanwhile the Salvation Army has been experiencing the PM’s better future, and its latest report on the State of the Nation makes a plea for better leadership of the social agenda.   Teenage pregnancies have decreased and more Māori are engaged in early childhood education, but despite New Zealand’s recent favourable Human Development Index report, the better future is in jeopardy.  Abominable Māori incarceration rates (particularly young Māori males), neglected housing problems, growing inequality, and the highest unemployment in 10 years necessitate doing quite a few things differently.

Campbell Roberts calls for a different collective vision, and yes, it will take extra taxes.  “A political and ethical perspective that starts with self-interest, with ‘what’s in it for me’, is bound to create a political culture that, in turn, has leaders who placate self –interest sentiments , even if these leaders are not self-serving themselves. If we measure progress just in self-centred material terms, we are unlikely to see value in the political ideas of those who advocate for future generations and a just society.”

If the Christchurch earthquake teaches us nothing else, it reminds us just how we are dependent on other people for our own well-being.

Those wanting a good read on how social policy can be used to help create stability during turbulent times might enjoy the Caledon Institute of Social Policy document Guiding principles for social policy budgets.

Not into reading?  See the three minute ‘all you need to know’ movie instead.  Embedded in Gordon Campbell’s article on Inequality and Tunisia, is economics professor Robert Reich’s Youtube piece The Truth about the economy.

Recipes, Robots and Retirement homes

There is no doubt a better future requires significant change.  Relative and absolute poverty causes harm, but rather than decisive action to reduce poverty and inequality, we have organisations reduced to providing child sponsorship of New Zealand children with government looking on approvingly rather than acting on the underlying national scandal.  It’s great the Minister is off to Washington to tell them about our early childhood home visiting programmes for vulnerable children, but it is better if the children are not vulnerable in the first place.

At the other end of the age spectrum, government is paying some attention to improving rest home care.  The Comprehensive Clinical Assessment (CCA), is being rolled out nationally, and helps nurses identify potential problems, e.g. weight loss, incontinence and depression.  Residents are assessed across 22 key aspects of their health, such as nutrition, cognition, skin condition and fall with the assessment repeated at least every six months.  Use of the tool will be mandatory in aged residential care from July 2015.
CCA, is also known as interRAI, is used in 30 countries around the world and is based on proven international research and standards.

Maybe some of this could even be done by robot.  Selwyn Retirement Village in Auckland successfully tried using robots, and since then four healthcare robots have been deployed by Gore Health to “help reduce costs, save staff time and improve patients' long-term health.”  Robots may well be very useful, but we would also wish to ensure our elderly are not bereft of human contact.  We would not want to see robots used merely to assist the retirement home industry in getting a big tick from investors.

Maybe we just do not want to improve people’s lives

People need jobs; but we keep closing them down.  Families go without, and in a double whammy, low-income families find that their Working for Families tax credits are cut by at least $60 a week if they no longer meet the work hours requirement, even though their children’s needs remain the same.

There are things we could do, we just do not seem to want to do them.  For example, Māori language has potential for improving our economy.  We don’t see it as a priority, but we do prioritise spending over $6 million on a new national war memorial.  The tokens of the hoped for better future, e.g. launching a Pasifika education plan, signing accords with iwi as part of treaty settlements to improve social outcomes for the hapū and whānau, campaigns around awareness about dementia, more social workers in schools  etc. we seem to manage ok.

It’s almost like we are avoiding some of the fundamentals.  Statistics NZ say our labour market is weak, but our only remedy seems to be to further cheapen work, and having Minister Joyce announce that our unemployment level is better than most OECD countries while conceding employment conditions remain challenging.  This is without exploring New Zealand First’s concern about how much of our labour force we are exporting to Australia.

Aotearoa young people are missing out

Young Labour is disgusted people aged 15 to 24 now comprise 44.8% of those unemployed, and there are now 90,000 young people not working, not studying or not in any training.  Government says things have got better because just under 80 per cent of all 15-19 year olds in New Zealand are enrolled in education or training.  The increase is hardly surprising since 20 August last year, 16-18 year olds, and 16-19 year old young parents needing government assistance have had to be engaged in education or training (once the child is one year old, in the case of the young parents).  Various programmes are designed to assist youth. Projects such as the Northland Wilderness Experience Hut, which is used to assist youth and whānau are a good idea and have their place, but they are not a panacea for young people being unable to take up adult roles because the opportunity is not there.

Enough to Live Off – the Living Wage campaign

Then there are too many people in jobs who are not paid enough to make ends meet.  Enter the Living Wage campaign.  The Report of an Investigation into Defining a Living Wage for New Zealand by Charles Waldegrave and Peter King of the Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit identifies $18.40 an hour as the New Zealand living wage.

It has quite a few followers.  David Shearer announced Labour’s support, the Greens called on the Government to adopt a living wage for all Government employees and contractors, encouragement came from the Presbyterian Church, and Wellington’s Mayor declared she was “keen to see the council adopt a living wage, and encourage other Wellington businesses to do so.”  Government support is unlikely.

Good articles on the living wage are in the New Zealand Herald including:
Battle for a living wage: A Kiwi bloke can survive on $19 an hour ... yeah right

The pay you need to survive - $19 per hour

Editorial: Key to 'living wage' will be equating it with fairness

Battle for a living wage: Students obliged to take jobs at well below minimum wage

Doing social well-being work?  Take Part in Careerforce Qualifications Review

Careerforce is the industry training organisation for the health, aged care, disability, social services and cleaning services sectors.  It sets standards for aged care, addiction, allied health, community work, core health, counselling, dental support, employment support, intellectual, physical and sensory disability, Iwi/Maori social services, health care orderlies, health support, mental health, Pacific Island social services, primary and secondary health care, public health, social services - including in suicide intervention,  abuse, neglect and violence, Tamariki Ora – Well Child Services, whānau/family and foster care, Whānau Ora, and youth work.

NZQA has decided there are way too many qualifications in these areas and is requiring a mandatory review to:
Reduce the number of qualifications.
Make the qualifications framework simpler for workplaces and trainees.
Ensure that the qualifications meet the current and future needs
During February and March Careerforce is running regional meetings across New Zealand to engage with everyone about the qualifications review. Click here to find your local meeting and register.

Update on Investing in Services for Outcomes

Investing in Services for Outcomes (ISO) is about changing the way the Ministry of Social Development “works in order to drive positive social development”. “The overall aim of the capability work is to support a stronger, adaptable and more integrated social service sector - an important part of Investing in Services for Outcomes.” Details about the approach can be found here.

Applications are now open for the first distribution of the Capability Investment Resource (CIR) ($31.65 million to support the social sector to work in even stronger, more flexible, results-focused, innovative and integrated ways).  Government has also released the Organisational Capability Self-Assessment Tool which  “identifies good practice elements for capabilities that are characteristic of organisations working to become stronger, more adaptable, more integrated and therefore more sustainable.”

Updated information about Investing in Services for Outcomes, including the Capability Investment Resource and the Organisational Capability Self-Assessment Tool, is now available on the MSD website.

Three Cheers for Benefit Reform

No doubt Paula Bennett, Minister of Social Development is really pleased numbers of people on benefits are falling.  So pleased, she puts out a press release.  In this case, three press releases.  Numbers on unemployment benefits have fallen.  They have fallen in the Southern Region – Ministerial Yay.  They have also fallen in the Waikato – double yay.  And, guess what, they have fallen in the lower North Island – Triple Yay.

Local Government latest baddies in housing saga

Oh dear, we just do not seem to be able to get it right on the housing front.  Government’s uncomfortable relationship with local government continues with its latest foray into public consultation. Apparently, according to new Housing Minister Nick Smith, the main cause of high land prices are local authorities charging “excessive” development levies on the long-suffering victims – land developers. Apart from the political wisdom of blaming all those local authorities, many of which are run by rural Government supporters, it seems a bit of a stretch to place so much emphasis on this one area in the housing affordability stakes. Easy pickings perhaps, but not a magic solution. Read the consultation document here and make your comments by 15th March.

In Canterbury, the Christchurch Press is conducting its own investigation into Christchurch's housing problems and wants to speak to as many people as possible about their experiences in trying to rent or buy a house in the city. Even if you've had no difficulty finding a place or had no rental increases, they still want to hear from you. Email


The Health and Disability Commissioner is calling for applications for membership of the Consumer Advisory Group, by 8 March 2013.  Details are at: 

Submissions to the Auckland Council in support of a “sinking lid” on pokies close on 28 February.  Over 20 organisations including the Salvation Army, Methodist Mission, Anglican Diocese, and a variety of child and health organisations have endorsed the campaign because a “sinking lid” will help reduce pokie numbers and the harm they cause, especially to our children.  This is the first gambling policy review undertaken since the 7 Councils amalgamated.   The gambling industry is always on the lookout for more gambling opportunities to make money out of our vulnerabilities, so and  the more the community, health and social sector has its voice heard in the debate, the better.  Further information is available at

What’s On?

Neighbour’s Day – coming this way 23-24 March

Children, child maltreatment and intimate partner violence: Research, policy and practice  One-day conference Co-hosted by the Families Commission and the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse 5 June 2013, 8.30am-5pm Te Papa, Wellington.

SSPA seminars Speaker: Dr Nicola Atwool: The Transition from State/NGO care to independence: What’s International Best Practice?
Seminar addressing children in the care of the NGO sector and what is known about poor outcomes for young people leaving care, what makes a difference, and where we are in New Zealand.   Venues: Christchurch - Wednesday 13 March, 13:00 – 16:00 St Albans Baptist Church, 64 McFaddens Rd, St Albans, Auckland - Thursday 14 March, 9:30 – 12:30 Manukau Institute of Technology, Manuhiri room, Gate14 Alexander Cres, Otara, Palmerston North - Friday 15 March, 9:30 – 12:30 Catholic Diocese Centre, 33 Amesbury st, Invercargill - Wednesday 20 March, 10:00 – 13:00 Family Works, Training room, 183 Spey Street, Dunedin - Thursday 21 March, 12:30 – 15:30 Dunedin Community Link, Waipori room, Corner of Castle and St Andrews Streets.  More

Salvation Army Social Justice Conference – Save the Date

Just Action: Rebuilding Justice Together, TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre in Manukau, September 18-19, 2013. Includes Shane Claiborne and Dr John M Perkins - activists in major civil rights and anti-war campaigns as well as being dedicated community workers in their respective cities.  More info and registration is available at


Working with Troubled Families: a guide to evidence and good practice  This UK report looks at academic evidence, local evaluations of practice, what practitioners have said works in their services and what families saymakes this work successful for them.

Last Word
The parents of every girl attending Auckland's Diocesan School for Girls pay roughly one and a half times as much in annual fees as Ana Malolo takes home for helping to clean the school all year.

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