Thursday, 22 August 2013

Policy Watch 21 August 2013


“New Zealand needs to share its resources more evenly or we will have a greater entrenchment of income inequality and poverty and all of the negative outcomes associated with these conditions”. 
Trevor McGlinchey, NZCCSS 

That’s the key message of the 16th Vulnerability Report released by NZCCSS. The report combines official government statistics with community information to track levels of vulnerability since the 2008 recession. The news in the latest report is mixed. Official statistics show signs of some improvement but this good news is not shared by everyone in our communities. Some of our children, young people, women, Pacifika and Māori are all bearing the brunt of paying for the excesses that caused the GFC.
“While some New Zealanders have experienced a return to normality and even enjoyed the low mortgage interest rates and high New Zealand dollar, enabling them to pay off their mortgage and purchase imported goods, the reality for many is much grimmer”, said McGlinchey. “There are queues and rationing at food banks. The waiting lists to get access to emergency housing continue to grow. The demand for family counselling, social worker support and for budget advice has outstripped many of our members’ ability to respond ”
Read the full media release and report here and join the discussion at Inequality.org.nz

5,000 More New Zealanders Join Exclusive Unemployed Persons Club

The unemployment rate for the June 2013 quarterly is up 6.4% according to the latest Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS). This translates as 5,000 more New Zealanders joining the exclusive unemployed persons club since the March Quarterly 2013.  The news sparked robust exchanges from across the House during question time (8 August) and the full exchange is well worth a read.  Here’s a quick overview of key issues debated:
 Is the HLFS measurement for unemployment outdated? Drawing from Roy Morgan Research the argument went like this. The unemployment rate could be as high as 9.1% if the HLFS measurement included people who fall into the category of under-employed. These are people who are looking for more hours of work. Why does ‘underemployment” matter? A trend in some countries like Britain is “good news in job figures is largely explained by a growth in poorly paid and part-time work; low wages have helped employers to keep employees in work but more people are now involuntary underemployed than they were before the recession”. The cost in terms of institutionalised poverty is high. For more information see NEF
Are we doing enough to enhance regional economic development in our smaller centres? Debate focussed around the impact on the Waikato region after the announcement 180 jobs going from AgResearch Ruakura campus, more jobs cuts in Otago and 7.6% unemployment rate for Gisborne. Hard to argue with these statistics!
 Implementation of recommendations of the 2010 Public Health Advisory Council Report to develop, monitor and report upon universally agreed high-level indicators for child health and well-being. This hasn’t happened and the debate centred on whether the likely results of these indicators would prove too poor to risk implementation of a monitoring programme.

    Young Kiwis Returning Home

    Another potential impact on current unemployment rates is the news from Treasury that Young People between 20 to 24 years are returning home from overseas in droves. Always great news for family and whānau to have their young ones returning. But how many will join the exclusive unemployed persons club and for how long? Is this thing called The Economy ready for the influx predicted by Treasury to be 20,000 by the start of 2014? And by the way there is a new term to learn - the quaternary sector (the so called FIRE, finance, real estate sectors), which now exceeds manufacturing in terms of employment. A useful sector to get to grips with when matching skills to jobs. For more information on the link between skills mismatch and inequality take a look at Paul Dalziel’s chapter “education and Skills” in Inequality : A New Zealand’s Crisis or for a summary of the article check out the latest Welcome.  Well worth a read.

    GPs Double as WINZ Officials But Where are the Jobs?

    What is to many the last bastian of a kindly word and neutral support to people receiving on-going state support (previously known as sickness beneficiaries) could be lost. According to recent reports the Ministry of Social Development is setting up a health and disability panel to determine how the medical profession can help remove “barriers to work”. CSS Disability Action Chief Executive David Matthews has concerns about: “doctors grilling already stressed patients” about their job prospects. “Disabled people tell me they feel checked up on and questioned all the time. Another set of questions just seems to be more and more pressure”.
    Most would agree that supporting people into meaningful and appropriate employment is positive for their health and wellbeing. The reverse is also true. International research consistently shows unemployment results in poorer mental and physical health, addictions, and increased rates of mortality …to name but a few social ills (Mormat Review and The Spirit Level).  So let’s not take our eye off the ball by this announcement. The success of the Government’s welfare reform programme is ultimately the availability of jobs and it’s not looking too good. The unemployment rate is up 6.4 %. Regional unemployment rates aren’t looking flash, coupled with cut backs in public services, and a blind faith in the ‘market economy’ sorting this mess out. …So good luck GPs ……because we think you’re going to need it!

    Inequality : A new Zealand Crisis

    We’re hearing the book is selling like hot cakes around the country! if you’ve missed out you can order from your bookseller or Bridget Williams Book website
    Join the discussion about the issues the book raised on the website run by editor Max Rashbrooke with support from NZCCSS and JR McKenzie Trust Inequality.org.nz
    Note presentations from the Increasing Inequality Forum are now available on the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies website.

    Launch of Tick for Kids : Putting Children at the Centre of Local Body and DHB Elections

    A new campaign to put kids at the centre of local body and DHB elections was officially launched early this week by Every Child Counts. The Tick for Kids launch  was attended by Auckland Mayor Len Brown, the Chair of Every Child Counts, Dennis McKinlay, and students from Balmoral Primary School. The campaign encourages local body and DHB candidates to confirm their commitment to an agenda for children based on obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights to the Child to ensure “children’s best interests are a priority consideration and are well placed to ensure that children’s interests are addressed in local communities”.

    Lung Damage from One Cold Night

    “One night sleeping in a frigid bedroom can harm a child’s lung function for up to a fortnight” according to new findings from the House and Health Research Programme/ He Kainga Oranga at the University of Otago University. This study adds to an already substantive body of evidence that says insulating homes is an effective way to improve child health and its cost effective. One night in hospital costs on average $1700, whereas insulating a house costs $1500” says researcher Dr Nevil Pierse. Over the years some improvements in house insulation have been seen. The Warm Up New Zealand:Heat Smart fund has insulated 230,000 houses since it began in 2009 but this funding will run out next month. Dr Pierse believes the Warm Up New Zealand programme should continue but supplemented by support for the joint He Kainga Oranga and NZ Green Building Council plan to develop a new test that could pass or fail houses with a ‘Warrant of Fitness’ or WoF’ type assessment. The evidence and economics are well set out in this new study but the ethics is best summed up when Dr Pierse says: “So we’re taking a child who’s sick, we’re bringing them into hospital, which is nice and warm, giving them some drugs, and putting them back in the same problem again”. The research has just been published by the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

    Launch of Homes People Can Afford : How to Improve Housing in New Zealand Edited by Sarah Bierre, Philippa-Chapman and Lisa Early

    “In Aotearoa new Zealand we need once more to see quality, healthy, safe housing – whether it is rented in the public or private sector, or owner-occupied – as a human right”

    He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme in association with the NZ Centre for Sustainable Cities has launched a new book that investigates New Zealand’s shortage of affordable and social housing. The contributors argue that “when affordable and social housing is under-provided by the market, more active policies and investment are required from central and local government”. The book also includes viable options that could house New Zealanders in homes they can afford. It also explores “new models of urban living that encourage a sense of community and a good quality of life, and shows that intelligent housing policy can help make communities healthier, happier, more stable and more resilient to climate change”. To find out more or to buy a copy of the book go to Steele Roberts publishers.

    The Devil is in the Detail: Legislation to Protect Our Most Vulnerable Children

    We knew it was coming! The White Paper for Vulnerable Children flagged it. New Legislation to protect our most vulnerable children has now been announced. Some general details have been released (see below) while the policy specifics are being worked out. The legislation will be introduced into the house at the end of August 2013 and the Government has confirmed it will go to select committee. What we know currently is the new legislation will be contained in an omnibus Bill, with two new standalone Acts and amendments to several other Acts. Here’s a general run down on key elements of these legislative changes:
    • Joint accountability for vulnerable children across Chief Executives of Social Welfare, Health, Education, Police and Justice.
    • Minimal standards for screening and vetting every government worker in the children’s workforce, and government-funded organisations working with children and voluntary for wider community organisations.
    • Children’s Workforce Restrictions on people who have serious convictions.
    • Child Harm Prevention Orders (new civil order) to place restrictions on adults with a history of serious convictions who pose a high risk of abusing children. This could potentially include cases where the adult responsible for the serious abuse or death of a child ‘on the balance of probability’.
    • Subsequent Children. Where children have previously been killed or seriously abuse, the burden of proof would reverse and the parents, not the courts, would need to prove their child is safe in their care.
    • Curtail Rights of Parents Whose Children Were Placed Into a Home For Life
    The devil is in the detail and while we wait to see it lets remind ourselves about CPAG’s report Child Abuse: what role does poverty play? The report contains reference to “substantive research showing the association between poverty and deprivation, child maltreatment and neglect”. There is ample evidence that child health and wellbeing flourishes where there is adequate household income to provide stable and healthy homes, nutritious food, access to medical and dental care, and strong community links with neighbours and schools. This is not rocket science! When public policy is devoid of a social justice lens the risk is overly harsh legislation and unintended consequences on the majority of struggling parents who are doing the best they can for their kids. We await the detail of this new legislation with interest. Watch this space for further updates!  For more information including Cabinet papers and fact sheets go to:

    Meanwhile, here are links to some commentary. 

    Child Poverty Action Group says “a Children’s Action Plan would need to have a broader scope to attend to a range of issues affecting children – health, housing, incomes, education and poverty to enact change and bring about progress in communities”  Children’s Commissioner says “an important shift in the balance between respecting a parent’s rights and ensuring a child’s right to be safe”
    Every Child Counts says “positive moves…”  Rethinking Crime and Punishment says “...the process may be just as important as the outcome. ” and the Mana Party certainly didn’t mince its words “..I want the government put on notice to stop their abuse and neglect of kids and whānau too.

    Good News from Minister Bennett for Small NGOs.

    Check out the latest news update from the Ministry of Social Development on Services for Outcomes (ISO). There’s some good news for smaller NGOs who might be worried about how they will fit into the new ISO framework. In the update Minister Bennett provides some encouraging words to smaller NGOs.
    Read the full newsletter and Minister’s message here

    SkyCity ‘International Convention Centre’ Bill

    A reminder that submissions to the Commerce Select Committee are due by 22 August.

    Check out the Methodist Church submission who consider the Bill against principles of the common good.

    Understanding New Zealand as a ‘Secular Country’

    Quantitative data often indicates New Zealand is a ‘secular’ society but how is the term ‘secular’ understood in New Zealand? The Centre for Theology and Public Issues is conducting a University-funded research project to look into this very question. A short online-survey has been devised to gather some qualitative data. Click here to take the survey and to find out more check out the link.

    Think Differently Campaign

    Think Differently is a social change campaign to encourage and support a shift in attitudes and behaviour towards disabled people. The campaign’s Making a Difference Fund supports locally led projects that contribute to making communities more inclusive of disabled people. A new funding round opened on 12 August with grants up to $30,000 available. The Fund is looking for projects that:

    • actively challenge negative views about disabled people
    •  change professional practice
    •  develop inclusive environments
    •  build the capacity of both disabled and non-disabled people to lead change.
    Visit the Think Differently website to find out more about applying for funding.

    2013 New Zealand Disability Survey

    Watch out for the Disability Survey which will run from July to October 2013. The survey collects information on how many people with a disability live in New Zealand, the nature and cause of their disability, the level of support they need and how they are faring compared with people who do not have a disability. The survey looks at:

    •  help or assistance needed
    •  access to services
    •  employment and education
    •  housing conditions
    •  special equipment used.
    For more information go here.

    $1.9 Million for Community Development Projects

    Some good news on the funding front. Eight new community development projects around the country will be supported with $1.9 million of funding from the Community Development Scheme ($80,000 for three years). The scheme supports communities “which are work together in new ways, to be innovative and to determine their own development priorities in order to achieve sustainable community outcomes”. For more information see media release.

    Resources

    The Families and Whānau Status Report. Families Commission

    The Families and Whānau Status Report is the first in a series that aims to enrich our understanding of family and whānau wellbeing. The Report is divided into two parts.

    Part One Setting the Context: The importance of a demographic overview] provides an in-depth review of diverse demographic changes and their impact on New Zealand families and whānau.

    Part Two Towards measuring family and whānau wellbeing presents two draft conceptual frameworks for measuring family and whānau wellbeing. The Commission has developed dual conceptual frameworks to measure family and whānau wellbeing. This approach is advocated in a report by Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, and Families Commission Board member.

    What’s On

    Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand – Symposium

    The Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand (PGNZ) is holding a Symposium for The Impact of Problem Gambling on Children and Young People in New Zealand.
    Join the Problem Gambling Foundation for a one day symposium in Wellington to discuss the impact of problem gambling on children and young people in New Zealand.
    The event is open to everyone interested in this important social issue and who would like to understand or play an active role in developing solutions and addressing the determinants of health of our current and future generations.

    We’ve highlighted the problem – be part of the solution.
    Friday 23rd August 2013
    10 am – 3:45 pm
    St John in the City
    Corner of Willis and Dixon streets,
    Wellington

    Just Action 2013 : Conference. The Salvation Army

    When: 18-19 September 2013
    Where: Manukau, New Zealand
    Venue: Vodafone Events Centre

    Register now at www.salvationarmy.org.nz/justaction. Here you can also find more information on the conference and on our headline speakers, plus accommodation, transport and eating option.

    Something Beautiful. Hutt City Salvation Army Fashion Show

    If you’re in Lower Hutt on Friday 23 August 2013 don’t miss the Hutt City Salvation Army Fashion Show. Lots of work has gone into this annual fund raising event so let’s support it.

    Location: Cnr Cornwall Street and Kings Crescent, Lower Hutt, Wellington.
    When: 6.30pm.
    ALL Funds raised go to the Community Ministries at Hutt City Salvation Army.