Tuesday 8 June 2010

Policy Watch

A budget is not simply a capturing of facts, figures, incomes, expenditures,
deficits and surpluses… It will try to tell a story of what and who it is we
collectively count as important and of priority. It is in this sense a critical
‘moral document’ to engage with and read closely.
(Salvation Army 19 May 2010)

Further Budget Commentary

It’s easy to get a bit overloaded with post budget commentary. Here are a few gems:
On the trade-offs in the Budget by Gordon Campbell

Inequality bound to hurt us all in the end by Tapu Misa

The inequality that matters most now is social mobility by Colin James

Budget cuts to social housing

According to the latest HNZC statistics 10,749 families are on the waiting list for a State house at the end of April 2010. And yet, according to the Green Party “the money for acquiring and upgrading state houses has been slashed from $120 million dollars to $18 million dollars in this year’s Budget.”
It’s hard to see how any cuts to state housing can be justified. Between March 2009 and March 2010 there was a 47% increase in the number of people of the waiting list for a state house assessed as priority A – having a severe housing need. There is also a concern that the cost of private rentals will increase as a result of new investment property tax rules. It’s alarming to find virtually nothing in the budget to address the significant supply problems with state houses.

Budget Tax cut implications for Super

In a recent press release Dr Susan St John, co-director of Auckland University's Retirement Policy and Research Centre, has considered our current super scheme – a universal flat-rate pension from age 65 – and asks whether this can be sustained if the top tax rate comes down. After all, she reminds us that our current scheme “was adopted when wealthy retirees effectively paid back almost two-thirds of their pensions through a top tax rate of 60 per cent". An interesting article.

Budget disappoints for aged care

According to Insite, the Budget 2010 was a fizzer for aged-care – with a funding increase for residential aged-care falling below inflation –with nothing new targeted for home-based care. Read more…

And on the topic of aged care…

Many of you will be aware the Sue Kegley and Winnie Laban are touring the country to investigate from the grassroots, peoples’ experiences with aged care. They are running public meetings and speaking with families, care workers and others. Sue Kegley discusses their tour on the Green’s blog. She also provides a quick overview of the significant changes in the aged care sector in the last ten years in the speech she gives while on tour.

Tighter auditing rules for rest homes

Health Minister Tony Ryall has announced that “the auditors who check rest homes will now have to be approved by an international agency under new rules.” This is in additional to the Ministry of Health auditing rest home auditors over the past six months.

Welfare Working Group

The Welfare Working Group has been established by Cabinet to undertake an expansive and fundamental review of New Zealand’s welfare system. The Government has asked the Working Group to consider three questions:
• Is New Zealand doing the right things to reduce long term dependency?
• Have we got the right welfare structure in place, and the right incentives to get people into work?
• Are we getting the outcomes that taxpayers want from the system, looking at sustainability, fairness, access and improved social outcomes?

Further information on the scope of the review is worrisome. Income adequacy of welfare is ‘outside of the scope’ whereas ‘learning from ACC and the insurance industry’ is deemed fit for exploration.

The rationale for the WWG’s work is predicated on an assumption that being in receipt of the benefit is synonymous with ‘dependency’ and therefore every effort must be put into reducing such a perilous state. This is also reflected in the Social Assistance (Future Focus) Bill currently before Parliament that aims to make the benefit system fairer by having an ‘unrelenting focus on work’.

It is interesting to note that being in receipt of State support through a main benefit is considered dependency, unless that State support is Superannuation or Working for Families, the latter of which tops up the wages of three quarters of NZ families. There is a clear ideology of deserving and undeserving at play.

NZCCSS recently made an oral and written submission to the Social Services Select Committee opposition to the Social Assistance (Future Focus) bill. The committee is due to report back to government on this bill by 30 July 2010. Not a lot of time for consideration.

The issues around the benefit system and in particular around long-term welfare dependency will be the focus of a two-day forum being hosted by the Welfare Working Group on 9-10 June 2010 at Victoria University in Wellington. As I am one of the 250 delegates I’ll report back on this forum in the next issue of Policy Watch. Clearly the WWG is not expected to come up with anything contrary to the Bill currently before Parliament as their finding are due after the Social Assistance (Future Focus) Bill is likely to become an Act.

Youth Opportunity now subject to ninety day trial

The ninety day trial period for new employees is now to apply to the youth opportunities scheme. Changes in the Budget that apply a 90-day trial period to the Government’s Job Opportunities scheme will expose out of work young people to unnecessary exploitation, Labour’s Associate spokesperson for Labour Darien Fenton says. Read more


Children’s Housing Futures – CHRANZ report

The Centre of Housing Research Aotearoa has just released Children’s Housing Futures (CRESA April 2010). The purpose of the report is summed up as follows: “If the current array of housing provision, housing assistance, and market trends continue, the children of today will have difficulties accessing adequate housing as they enter adulthood and start families. This report suggests resolving children’s housing futures is a pathway to ensuring that our most vulnerable children grow into productive and engaged adults” (Executive Summary).

Public Health Advisory Committee (PHAC) report on child wellbeing

The PHAC have prepared a report to the Ministry of Health The Best Start in Life: Achieving effective action on child health and well-being. At the beginning of the report the Advisory Group Chair states: “New Zealand has been thought of as a great place for children. This is still true if a child’s family is employed, has a good income, lives in a dry, warm house and is well educated, and the child is loved, nurtured and well cared for. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many New Zealand children.” We are then reminded that “New Zealand is not doing as well for children as are other comparable countries. In fact, New Zealand sits in the bottom third in OECD rankings for most child indicators”. The report urges a greater investment in children and better integration and coordination of services.

In a media release the coalition Every Child Counts have said the report “should set off the nation’s alarm bells”. Ms Turei from the Green’s commented "We have some of the worst child health outcomes in the OECD. "The report shows that we urgently need an integrated, whole-of-government approach to child health and wellbeing and a commitment to child health monitoring."
This report is a sobering read.

GREENS – Mind the Gap

The Greens recently released Mind the Gap, a set of eight practical steps Government could take to address inequality without breaking the bank, including giving every family a reasonable amount of electricity at a fixed low rate so they can stay warm and healthy. So sensible are its recommendations it could be a NZCCSS publication!


New wesbsite for Well Pacific Mother and Infant Service

TAHA has been established to support professionals who work with Pacific mothers, babies and their families during pregnancy and the 1st year of life, and the website has been developed to keep you up-to-date with the latest information and research in Pacific maternal and infant health.

Online journal for depression management launched

A new online tool as been released to help those suffering from depression. Read more

CYF Fresh Start Update

The Fresh Start e-newsletter updates aim to keep you informed about the development and progress of the Fresh Start initiatives, outlined in earlier newsletters. Issue 9 June 2010 covers the Innovation Fund, youth mentoring training, Supervision with Activity Providers’ workshop and Preferred Providers.


“Skills for Wellbeing, 2020” a proposed workforce development framework for social services and community building -Invitation for feedback

You are invited to contribute to the development of a 10-year strategy for the social services and community sector and workforce. If you see this discussion as relevant to you – please get involved. All feedback is needed by 30 June 2010. The Discussion Document with links to online feedback forms can be downloaded at http://www.socialservicesito.org.nz/ If you have any questions about this project, please contact the project manager, Jac Lynch, jac.lynch@socialservicesito.org.nz; Ph 0800 558 558

Children’s Commission – Young People’s Reference Group

The Young People's Reference Group is one way the Children’s Commissioner hears first-hand what it’s like being young in New Zealand. The group provides their views, and looks at potential solutions to key issues affecting New Zealand/Aotearoa. They are looking for young people aged between 12 and 15 years. Application forms can be downloaded at www.occ.org.nz/yprg

Public submissions welcomed for review of ACC’s Sensitive Claims Pathway

A number of member agencies have noted the significant decline in access to ACC funded counselling for sexual abuse victims. In October last year the Hon. Dr. Nick Smith promised the New Clinical Pathway for the Treatment of Sensitive Claims would be subject to an Independent clinical review. The Review Panel is hoping to receive submissions from members of the public and anyone affected by the changes to the treatment of Sensitive Claims by ACC. Read more in a press release by the NZ Psychotherapists Association

Legislation and submissions

NZCCSS is preparing a submission in opposition to Rodney Hide’s Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill. If you would like to make a submission you may find the Greens guide to making a submission helpful. Submissions close 18 June. The explanatory note at the beginning of the bill and the first reading (part 1 and part 2) give a good overview of what is being proposed. The most frightening elements include the reduction of local government activities to a very short list of things deemed ‘core’. This excludes social development, and the much publicised move to allow the private sector organisations to manage water services for up to 35 years. There are also some lessons to be learned from the Local Government (Auckland Law Reform) Bill as outlined in a minority report penned by the Greens.
The Sentencing and Parole Reform bill recently had its third and final reading and now awaits Royal Assent. Also known as three strikes, this bill has engendered much opposition. Unfortunately the law is still being enacted.
Reforms to the welfare system are underway with the Social Assistance (Future Focus) Bill now at select committee. NZCCSS submitted in opposition as did a large number of others including Women’s Refuge, Caritas, the Human Rights Commission and the Council of Trade Unions, to name just a few.

PFNZ Conference

Prison Fellowship New Zealand along with NGOs working on the prison sector welcome you to
their 2010 Conference: “Breaking Down the Barriers to get Prison Numbers Down -
Alternatives That Work”. October 7-10th 2010, Silverstream Retreat, Upper Hutt, New Zealand . More information at http://www.pfnz.org.nz/Site%20PDF/2010conference/flyer.pdf

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