Monday 2 November 2009

Policy Watch


I am going back out into the world, determined to contribute what I can to raising peoples’ awareness of the power we hold in our hands if we really want to change the world – and to help as best as I am able with the never ending task of working to help make our country a better place for all of us to live, not just some.(Sue Bradford Valedictory Speech 28/10/09)

Farewell to Bradford

After nearly 10 years in Parliament we bid Sue farewell and thank her for her tireless work advocating for social justice and a fair deal for all New Zealanders. Her full speech is available on the Greens website

National keen to ‘get tough’ on beneficiaries again

Pre election promises to make all DPB recipients find part time work or training once their youngest child turns six and policies to reduce number of Sickness and Invalid Benefits are to be implemented. Mr English is reported to have said that “we want to look at how to encourage more people off those longer term benefits”. Proposals will be considered before Christmas, having been temporarily shelved during the peak of the recession. On a brighter note government is also considering changing the benefit abatement threshold allowing beneficiaries with part time work to keep more of their earnings – an earlier pledge that was also deferred.

Local Government Reforms

On 28 October Rodney Hide went to Cabinet with his recommendations on local government reforms. Thankfully, Cabinet has rejected moves to define and restrict local council activities to ‘core services’ – definitions being fraught and restrictions largely unpopular. The Minister’s move to introduce regular referenda and polls regarding council spending have also been rejected. Despite this, Mr Hide is still maintaining that the reforms will help to keep rates under control. Less clear and of concern are the reforms regarding the privatisation of public assets. The Labour Party is asking Hide to explain his privatisation agenda. A local government reform bill is expected to be introduced to Parliament before Christmas.

Falls Prevention Programme Scrapped

A programme that has been proven to cut the number of falls in the elderly by a third has been scrapped by ACC to save money. Despite saving $2 for every one dollar spent ACC is still to cut funding. Listen to Kathryn Ryan interviewing Professor John Campbell and Dr Liz Spellacy regarding this funding decision on Nine to Noon. In an Association of Gerontology press release the Association has expressed its shock the ACC has cut funding for the Otago Exercise Programme for Falls Prevention and is calling for an explanation from the Minister and ACC. Funding has not been cut for the ACC funded Tai Chi programme.

ACC Founder Blasts Predatory Changes

And on the topic of ACC Sir Owen Woodhouse, described as father of NZ’s ACC Scheme reminds us of original purpose of the scheme and its five underlying principles in a recent NZ Herald press release. In his view the scheme was not set up as insurance but as part of the social welfare system. Sue Bradford has pointed out in a Greens press release that ACC is not losing money and this year’s revenues were $4.5b, $1.5b more than it spent on claims. She has also expressed dismay that the Maori Party has agreed to support the legislation to first reading.

The ACC reforms as currently proposed will impact on everyone. The NZ Listener editorial and feature article from the week of October 24 succinctly capture some inherent problems with the reforms. From our perspective we question why the full funding model is necessary given the government is not a private insurer. We don’t believe the rhetoric about not wanting to burden future generations with on-going cost of injuries suffered today. If that were the case why has the government suspended payments to NZ Super for 11 years? Surely the purpose of the fund was to ensure there was sufficient funding so our children and grandchildren (aka future taxpayers) wouldn’t be burdened with cost of an ageing population. ACC reforms are further discussed in a feature article (ACC Playing with Numbers) in our most recent issue of Kete Kupu.

Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Review

In September the Ministry of Consumer Affairs published a set of proposals for changes to the operation of the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act. As part of the work to control the practices of fringe lenders this review is significant and the Ministry is inviting comments on the proposals. Deadline for submissions is November 16th. NZCCSS will be preparing comment and if you are interested in commenting or have information that could be included in our submission please contact us. The full discussion document can be found on the Consumer Affairs website.

Food & Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Older People – feedback sought

The Ministry of Health is seeking comment on the draft of a background paper on Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Older People. It is envisaged that the background paper will provide sound and practical advice for health practitioners including dietitians, nutritionists, doctors, nurses, primary health care providers, health promoters, and others working with older people in the practice of healthy nutrition. Submissions close at 5 pm on 6 November 2009.

Malnutrition in the elderly

And on the topic of nutrition, according to a press release from the NZ Nutrition Foundation, internationally-renowned specialist Dr Mike Stroud from the UK is in New Zealand to share his expertise and latest research findings with those caring for older people. Experts are gathering in Christchurch this week to learn from the latest research into keeping our seniors well by making meals matter

New budget service partnership

The Salvation Army and Rabobank recently announced a new three-year social partnership to support the Sallies budgeting services in New Zealand. This is great news as the financial support provided by Rabobank enables a greater number of people access to this free service.

New Neighbours Network to help Wellington

Home Instead Senior Care is to launch a new Neighbours Network Card scheme in Wellington. The scheme provides a simple system to alert neighbours of a possible emergency and will be of benefit for older people living alone.

Social Report for 2009 – mixed progress

MSD has released its latest Social Report. While New Zealanders are living longer, smoking less and are more qualified than over a decade ago, housing affordability deteriorated between 2004 and 2008 with just under a third of people are spending more than 30% of their income on housing. Increased housing costs are also responsible for the increase in the proportion of children living in low income households, up from 15% in 2007 to 20% in 2008. A copy of this report is available on the MSD website. Don’t bother asking for a hard copy as you will be advised to download this rather doc from the web page. Another victim of line by line reviews…

New Survey on Well Being

Statistics NZ has released the first New Zealand General Social Survey (NZGSS) shows that 86 percent of New Zealanders are satisfied with their life overall, Statistics New Zealand said today. The NZGSS gives information about key social and economic outcomes across a number of areas of life.
Other key findings of interest to NZCCSS included the finding that around 1 in 7 people said they did not have enough money to meet their everyday needs and a half of people reported one or more problems relating to their house, street, or neighbourhood. Many were dissatisfied with houses that were too small or too cold.

NZ Non-Profit Sector and Government Policy

The final paper from the Study of the NZ Non-Profit Sector has been published and explores the impact of government policy on the sector and how current issues facing the sector are linked to interactions with government. Scroll down the link to find the latest report.

Report on OSCAR Programmes

For those of you interested in OSCAR programmes, check out MSDs latest findings on extended services. These programmes involve children and their communities in developing activities (after school and holiday programmes) that engage the interest of children, especially older children, and contribute to their positive development and wellbeing.

Housing and the Needs of Older People – CHRANZ Research

Kay Saville Smith from CHRANZ has released new research Older People's Housing Future 2050: Three Scenarios for an Ageing Future. The research investigates the patterns of housing futures likely for people aged of 65 years between 2010 and 2050. In 2050 an estimated 800,000 households will be headed by older people (about a quarter of the population). This report explores the important issues related to “how to ensure that older people have the sort of housing that keeps them well, keeps them connected, and keeps them productive”.

Other Legislation in Progress

NZCCSS is awaiting reports from various select committees on bills we have made submissions on. These include the Sentencing and Parole Reform bill (due to govt on 30 November), the CYF Youth Courts and Jurisdictions Bill - due 27 November) and the Infrastructure Bill (13 November). We will monitor the outcomes of these reports as they progress through Parliament. We are also alert to impending bills that could have detrimental impacts for the people our agencies work with. These include reforms to ACC as discussed above, changes to the tax system being explored by the Tax Working Group, local government reforms being spearheaded by Rodney Hide and changes to child support – being lead by Peter Dunne.

Social issues Conference in Auckland November 2009

The conference, “Passing Go” will look at social issues in Auckland and how the ‘Supercity’ changes in local government will affect the delivery of services to the community. Register at the following website.

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