Monday 11 January 2010

Policy Watch

Government rethinking how social services will provided to vulnerable families

Before Christmas the Finance Minister Bill English was interviewed on morning report about a “fundamental revamp of how welfare is delivered to vulnerable families”. (Note by welfare they are referring to the social services rather than benefit payments). Mr English was reported to have said “hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on these families but much of it is doing little to improve lives”. The Government hopes that changes will be made in the next budget that will “give frontline organisations more responsibility for making sure the government’s money gets to those who need it”.

The Minister’s September 2009 announcement to introduce more flexible high trust contracts with NGOs with a proven track record of effective service provision, its on-going conversation with community groups (including NZCCSS) about the future shape of the social services sector and the development of the Maori Party’s Whanau Ora policy will contribute to the new direction.

Check out the podcast for the full interview with Bill English and a comvoices press release on the sector’s response. See the last page of the December 2009 issue of Funding News for the latest update on high trust contracts.

Congratulations to Lifewise

A programme run by the community agency LIFEWISE to house homeless people was recognised by the Australasian Housing Institute at an awards ceremony in Auckland yesterday evening, winning the team award for Leading Innovation. Well done Lifewise.

Access Tourism for People with Disabilities & Seniors

Access Tourism has a good website to check out for information about tourism for people with specific needs. Check out the category “What NZ needs” for some report and analysis on NZ as an accessible place to travel as a disabled person.

United Future promotes income splitting

An officials’ issues paper released today looks at the idea of having income splitting between couples with children operate through an annual tax credit system, and seeks feedback on how this might work in practice. This policy is part of United Future’s Confidence and Supply Agreement with National who have agreed to support the legislation to first reading stage. The paper estimates that 60% of families with dependent children would be eligible (about 300,000 families) at an estimated cost of $450m per year (excluding admin costs). In response to an earlier discussion paper NZCCSS opposed the idea of income splitting on the grounds that it is of more benefit to middle and high income families, and ignores the financial needs of well known vulnerable groups e.g. sole parents, low wage two earner families on similar wages, and larger families.

Submissions close on 5 February 2010. For more information see today's media statement and the issues paper "An income splitting tax credit for families with children".

Capital gains taxes could increase rents

In the summer issue of Business Advisor (Grant Thornton) there is a short article about how housing rentals are likely to rise if a capital gains tax on rental properties is introduced. It is argued that rent increases would be necessary for investors to replace the lost income. Any increase in rent is of concern for low income families and individuals, many of whom are already committing more than the recommended 30% of their income on housing. We await the government recommendations on tax reform (due shortly) to see whether a capital gains tax is introduced.

Free workshop on industry disputes resolution schemes

Four guest speakers from the banking, telecommunications, insurance & savings, and electricity & gas industries will be explaining their processes for dealing with complaints in a workshop with Wellington community groups on Wednesday 3 March from 9.30am – 12.30pm at the Church Hall, St John’s Presbyterian Church, Corner Dixon and Willis Streets. Morning tea provided. Contact to register by 1 March 2010

Gambling Crackdown Looming

The Government's gambling watchdog is promising a crackdown on the billion-dollar pokie industry, saying many organisations are running "rorts" and pocketing gambling money that should go to legitimate community groups. Such a crackdown is urgently needed given that there are over 20,000 pokie machines in NZ and $2.5 million is lost every day through these machines.

Auditors of Rest Homes get a “not achieved” from Auditor General

The Auditor General’s office has been critical of the Ministry of Health (MoH) in the way it has monitored the standard of auditing of rest homes in a recent report. Inconsistent approaches to audits and duplication of auditing from nearly two thirds of District Health Boards who do not consider the certification process to be reliable. There is general agreement across the sector that the introduction of standards, certification and auditing has helped to raise standards in aged care but the report identifies issues about ensuring the quality of auditors and avoiding unnecessary duplication of audits as needing attention. The Auditor General notes that the MoH is working on the issues raised in its report and will continue to monitor progress. Read the response from the NZ Aged Care Association and from Age Concern.

Work & Income trying to do better for Seniors

The Ministry of Social Development has been working hard to improve its interaction with seniors and in their revised Senior Services webpage it provides very useful information and an interactive question & answer tool. They have also been researching the kinds of services that seniors expect from Work & Income and have been trialling the use of specialist superannuation case managers at some locations around the country.

A new SuperGold Card directory is being published in January and will be sent to all new card holders and existing cardholders can request a copy through the freephone number 0800 25 45 65

Family Violence Factsheet

The New Zealand Family Violence Statistics Fact Sheet provides a summary of information dating from, in some cases, 1999 until 2008 relating to family violence in New Zealand. This publicly available information has been supplied by government and non-government agencies such as the New Zealand Police, the Ministries of Justice and Health, Child, Youth and Family, the National Collective of Independent Women's Refuges and Age Concern New Zealand.

DCM Wet Housing Report

Stephanie McIntyre, the Director of Wellington’s Downtown Community Ministry has released a report on Wet Housing. Wet Housing is “an accommodation option for people who have experience chronic homelessness and long term alcohol dependence”.

Community Response Fund delivers $11m in round two

According to a beehive press release “after two rounds of the Community Response Fund, $19.6 million has been provided to 344 organisations across the country and the third round is now open for applications.”

Working Together More Fund established

Four funders (Wayne Francis Charitable Trust, J R McKenzie Trust, Todd Foundation and The Tindall Foundation) came together in 2009 to discuss how they could best help NGOs to manage through the recession and into the years ahead. As a result, the Working Together More Fund - He Pūtea Mahi Tahi was launched in October 2009. The fund assists community groups interested in working together more closely in order to make a greater difference for the people and communities they serve. The fund can provide seeding money and expertise. Applications for the first round of funding have closed and the next one closes on 12 March 2010. Find out more about the Working Together More Fund on the web

Community Development Scheme (CDS) Grants

The Department of Internal Affairs Community Development Scheme enables communities to work together in innovative ways, to generate their own solutions to local issues and achieve sustainable community outcomes. The 2010 funding round opened on 2 November 2009 and closes on 22 March 2010. There are grants available to support 10 new projects in 10 priority territories around the country.


In a strategic partnership, Trust Waikato and a Steering Group are developing a project to monitor poverty and deprivation in the Waikato region. This project will articulate the regional relationship between poverty, policy and structural change and will be based on community development and empowerment models. Due to the scale of this project, the research will be conducted in several stages. The steering group is seeking to employ a Research Leader to develop and coordinate the project. The position will be full time initially for 12 months and will be based in Hamilton, Waikato, commencing on 15 February 2010. Expressions of interest for the position can be sent to: Karen Morrison-Hume, P O Box 13-117, Hillcrest, Hamilton. For further information ring Karen on 07 856 5820.

Skills for the Future of Social Wellbeing 2020 - Workforce Development Project for Social Services

Whanau ora, family-centred and community-building approaches will be the focus of workforce planning for social services in 2020. The workforce development project "Skills for the Future of Social Wellbeing 2020" is in its early stages, with a discussion paper due for distribution in April 2010. More information on the Social Services ITO website.

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