Monday, 5 August 2013

Policy Watch 5th August 2013


“Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For thirty years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest: indeed, this very pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of collective purpose. We know what things cost but have no idea what they are worth”.


Ill Fares The Land, Tony Judt, 2010

Inequality : Wind of Change

Thanks to the contributors to Inequality: A New Zealand Crisis we have been publicly debating the impact of this perceived ‘virtue’ on the lives of New Zealanders and it feels as though there’s a wind of change in the air. Post the launch of the book, Professor Wade’s visit and the IGPS Increasing Inequality Forum, debate is continuing around New Zealand on who really gained from the social upheaval of the 1980 market reforms, and three decades later, has it been worth it? The real strength of the book is the framework it provides us with to reflect on so many unfair conditions of life to which a growing number of New Zealanders have grown accustomed. Conditions our social service providers see all too often - child poverty, poor physical and mental health, food insecurity, poor quality housing, poor educational achievement, inexplicably high rates of incarceration ….… and the list goes on.

So here a few facts taken from the book:
- New Zealand now has the widest income gaps since detailed records began in the early 1980s.
- From mid-1980s to the mid-2000, the gap between the rich and the rest has widened faster in New Zealand than in any other developed country.
- The average household in the top 10 per cent of New Zealand has nine times the income of one in the bottom 10 per cent.
- The top 1 per cent of adults own 16 per cent of the country’s total wealth, while the bottom half put together have just 5 per cent.
- Inequality creates social distance which in turn leads to reduced empathy, understanding, willingness to participate in community activities.
- Living on low incomes reduces parent’s ability to invest in children's education leading to long-term setting back of the whole country.
- Countries with less inequality have been shown to have greater social mobility, with flow-on effects socially and for the economy.
Join this debate at www.inequality.org.nz – “Sparking debate about income gaps, the damage they do, and how to narrow them” and keep this wind of change flowing…...

Support for Families In-Tax Credits to Parents of Beneficiaries

Yet more signs the hearts and minds of New Zealanders are changing. The New Zealand Herald recently reported 51% of 750 voters supported extending Working for Families in-tax credits to parents on welfare. Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)’s valiant effort to inform the public on the inherent unfairness of the current policy seem to have worked. As Spokesperson Susan St John says “When people lose work, they lose those tax credits and why should the children get less…..”? Check out the full article here 

Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes) in Schools

The Feed the Kids Bill may be postponed but work continues on gathering evidence to support the Bill. At a recent press conference, Every Child Count raised concern about gaps in current food in schools provision and the need to engage parents and community. As Dr Maraina Smith, a General Practitioner in Porirua explained “In my community of Porirua I regularly see families who are struggling to meet all of the needs of their children. They are good parents, striving to their very best. But there is a lack of education around what an appropriate diet and routine entails, as well as an increasingly high cost of living associated with low incomes, which results in food quickly becoming one of those things that has to be reduced in order to live within their means”. Check out also a map of the countries in the world providing comprehensive food in schools programmes circulated by Every Child Count on Feed the kids website and click onto their facebook page. It seems state funded food in school is the norm and not the exception.

Walk Alongside : Meaningful Work for the Young Worker. Caritas Social Justice Week

Caritas has released a new social justice booklet as part of Social Justice Week, 8-14 September 2013. “Walk Alongside” focuses on youth unemployment. An issue faced by a growing proportion of young people in New Zealand, along with the rest of the world, since the global economic recession in 2009. This informative booklet provides commentary on the big issues facing young people looking for meaningful and stable work, and on the need for “more caring positive adult role models to walk young people through the transitions into adulthood into meaningful work. Check out the Caritas website for a video or for the resource.

Youth 2000 Survey Series :The Health and Wellbeing of New Zealand Secondary School Students in 2012 

The University of Auckland, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, has released the results of the latest Youth 2000 Survey Series, and there is a mix of good and not so good news about how our young people are faring. Here’s a brief overview:

Students report significant improvements since 2001:
- Substance use (cigarette, marijuana use and binge drinking)
- Risky driving behaviour (going without a seat belt, drink driving, and being driven dangerously)
- Violence (being hit or harmed by someone on purpose)
- Sexual coercion/abuse.

Students report no improvement or worsening in some areas:

- Inconsistent condom and contraception use
- Being bullied
- Being overweight or obese
- Not feeling they spend enough time with at least one parent
- Significant depressive symptoms.

Areas significantly worsened over time:

- Parents worrying about having enough money for food
- Access to a family doctor
- Participation in paid part-time employment.

It’s worth noting that areas of significant improvements are associated with effective public health campaigns.

Check out the Youth 2000 Survey Series website and full document at:

Regional Work and Income Staff under Review

Ironic, it seems, the very people charged with implementing welfare reforms at the front line may soon gain first-hand experience living on new benefit categories. The government has announced a review of Work and Income regional offices, which we are told will cut 35 jobs across 11 offices (prior to the review process). Might this raise a moral dilemma for those W&Is who keep their jobs? Will their mates suddenly transform overnight into unmotivated dole bluggers, who make bad choices, and are bad parents to boot? Likely not. There is a real concern though that poor work morale will impact on remaining staff to provide necessary support to an increasing number of vulnerable people.

Check out comments from PSA’s Brenda Pilott

Welfare Reforms : Impact on those Living with Mental Health Issues and/or Disability

Vaka Tautua has taken an insightful look at the welfare reforms from the perspective of those living with mental health issues and disability. On a positive, there seems support for a greater focus on ‘appropriate’ employment and for changes to the benefit titles, which some believe carry less of a negative connotation. So far so good. However, the move to contract out the ‘placement’ of people into ‘jobs’ carries some concern for those living with mental illness, a disability or who are parents of children with disabilities. The Concern raised in the article relates to “….the checks and balances that are in place to ensure they (contractor) are equipped to work alongside people experiencing mental health challenges”/ disability. The article also raises concern about sole parents with children with disabilities accessing early childhood education (ECE). “Most of us would have some understanding for the challenges these parents are confronted with daily – caring for children living with disability in no easy task. What many of us may not be aware of is the discrimination they face in the education system – including access to early childhood education”. If this issue is not addressed parents face the likelihood of being sanctioned for not enrolled in ECE when this situation is entirely out of their hands.

Read the full article at :

Budget advisers get a little extra funding

Extra funding for 92 budgeting providers has been well received around the country by community organisations. Successful recipients will receive grants ranging from $5,000 to $45,000. This is good news in light of mounting concern about long waiting lists for budget advice. Raewyn Fox, CEO, New Zealand Federation of Family Budgeting Services has seen a dramatic increase in 0508 BUDGETLINE callers. .. partly due to an increase in awareness of budgeting after the financial recession…. But we’ve also had a lot of callers via Work and Income since the Future Focus changes require budgeting activity.
See link :

Social Workers in Schools

More is better? This is one investment that the Government does appear to be making to support vulnerable children. The government has announced an extra 149 frontline social workers around the country. Is social workers in schools working? Well, PSN has a very successful programme in Auckland that they talk about here.

Social Services Sunday

Social Services Sunday (28 July 2013) reminds us each year of the need to get involved with the marginalised and vulnerable. What we do not always hear is that helping is a two way street. We gain as much as we give, and may even be in just as much need. Check out this short video for a bit of inspiration.

Government Responsibility to Implement Pay Parity in Aged Care

“An equal pay argument was used by the Government to justify upping pay for Mighty River Power directors by 73% when the power company was floated, and yet the same argument was rejected from carers,”says Prof Judy McGregor, commenting on the on-going injustice of unequal pay in the aged care sector.  Others are also concerned about how the market behaviour in aged care…

Market ethos to blame for care quality? Recent stories of issues with poor care quality such as reported in Wellington recently leads to the usual round of finger-pointing and blame-shifting. The company concerned blamed its managers and nurses, the unions blamed low staffing ratios - but EVERYBODY agrees there is underfunding of the sector. Massey University lecturer Chrissy Severinsen suggests that the market ethos is undermining the quality of care- the turbulent times in aged care in this country continue.
Meanwhile, at Local Government NZ local authorities were being told about the challenges to regions in NZ that population ageing presents -  we “are all closer to the walking frame than the pram”  

Empty State Housing Paradox

It seems rather absurd that on the one hand our NZCCSS Service providers consistently raise concerns about the desperate situations of people who cannot access state and community housing and yet at the same time we appear to have a substantive number of vacant state housing - 3,700 and there’s been a 41% increase since the beginning of last year.

Social Housing Bill– The Devil Is In The Detail

The devil is very much in the detail when it comes to the Social Housing Reform Bill – NZCCSS was one of a number of church and community housing providers making oral submissions on the Bill last week. The sector welcomes the idea of extending Income Related Rents to non-HNZ tenants but the new policy may be coming with too many regulatory strings attached and too little funding. In any case, this is important legislation that, if it is done well, could form the basis for a thriving social and community housing sector. If it is done badly – well how about HNZ tenants who have been getting information like this sent to them does that help make people in vulnerable situations with low incomes feel secure in their housing? Check out submissions from other key social agencies from NZCCSS, Community Housing Association (CHA)  and The Salvation Army and other submission from Parliament website.

Meanwhile, out there in the private sector housing market, somehow all mention of improving housing affordability has slipped out of the legislation that is meant to be addressing it…
Check out the Beehive media release, the Housing Accord Bill and the article in Herald

Sky City Bill “a joke”

The Salvation Army’s Major Campbell Roberts describes the harm minimisation measures allowed for in this legislation as a joke. “They do not represent any significant improvement on the rather ineffective current practices of Sky City Casino, that are already failing to significantly reduce gambling harm,” he says.
See also stories and information on the Problem Gambling Foundation website

Public submissions on the Bill close on 22ndAugust and can be made online.

For the bill see:

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.









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