Monday 21 February 2011

Let us give thanks for the goodwill and aroha that New Zealanders have for
one another, and the progress made in healing the things that divide us.

Extract from prayer for Waitangi Day from Caritas – Catholic agency for justice, peace and development.

Last Round of Community Response Fund Closes on Friday 25th February

In recent discussions with senior MSD officials NZCCSS was told to encourage its members to make an application for Community Response Funds in this last round. Providers of critical social services who have received funding that has not yet been completely expended are still eligible to apply. Where providers have had a recent grant made or where the funds of a grant made in this financial year are not fully expended MSD recommends the provider forecasts demand – (with evidence to support these demand forecasts), costs and likely income for the future year.

Please check the Community Response Fund Pages of the MSD website for further details. NZCCSS strongly encourages you to make an application for this last round of the CRF.

Stalled A state of the nation report from the Salvation Army

The Salvation Army has released its latest state of the nation report Stalled. The report identifies what The Salvation Army considers to be significant social policy failures. These include the growing number of children living in workless households, the continuing education disadvantage to Maori children, the burgeoning housing shortage in Auckland, high youth unemployment, and the record number of people in prison.

It shows that over the past two years, social progress has been flat. Gains like an improvement in academic achievement at secondary schools and a decline in gaming machine numbers are overshadowed by child poverty rates climbing back to 2006 levels and violence against children and youth unemployment rates as high as five years ago.

Meanwhile, when questioned by Annette King as to why, if everyone was better off after the tax changes, had the demand for Salvation Army food parcels never been higher, Mr Key replied that this was a result of bad lifestyle choices by beneficiaries!

Te Matārae i Orehu - Supreme Champions at Te Matatini o Te Rā

The loss of their inspirational women’s leader Taini Morrison inspired Te Matārae o Orehu to new heights as they competed for and won the Supreme Champion award at Te Matatini o te Rā. Taini’s daughter Miriama Morrison-Hare took the kaitataki wāhine (women leader) role and gave a stunning performance earning the award for best woman leader.

This biannual festival of kapa haka, featuring over 2,000 performers was held this year at Te Wai o Hika Estate Gisborne. Over 400 volunteers assisted in ensuring all the performers and audience were well looked after over the 4 days of the festival.

Overnight Pay for Care Workers

While employers of carers are considering the implications of the Court of Appeal ruling that workers doing overnight sleepover shifts should be paid the adult minimum wage for every hour of the shift, care workers are celebrating this result. Community organisations employing care workers to sleep overnight in care homes will be unable to make the required payments to their employees, and certainly are not in a position to fund any backpay requirements.

It is up to the Government to provide a suitable level of contract payments to ensure that these overnight payment requirements can be met. However, there is speculation the government may change employment laws to avoid this.

Asset sale déjà vu?

Those of us who remember school milk probably not only have a lower risk of bowel cancer. We also might be dyeing our greying hair and remembering Asset Sales Last Time Around e.g. the ‘Save Rail’ campaign, followed by the ‘Sell Off Rail’ policy shift, followed by the ‘Suck the Lifeblood Out Of Rail’ approach of the foreign buyers, followed by the ‘Spend lots of Money Fixing Up Rail Because it’s A Disaster’ by the government who had to ‘Buy it Back.’ While there are quite a few of us who remember, we are getting older. That means there are lots of people who do not remember asset sales, the lack of debate, and the pain in the community. Enter – golden opportunity for the Government. Asset sales are back.

John Key is talking about starting with the partial sale of state-owned power companies (Mighty River Power, Meridian, Genesis and Solid Energy) ‘Mum and Dad” kiwi investors will get to buy shares (even if we already own them by virtue of paying taxes). Some people think all this is a good idea, e.g.

… allowing New Zealanders to invest directly in a changed mix of state owned assets is a policy that is both progressive and moderate - BusinessNZ Chief Executive, Phil O’Reilly

… trading up of the Government's state assets into even more valuable assets is exciting news … - Employers & Manufacturers Association

does not go far enough, both in terms of the number of assets up for sale and the extent to which each asset could be sold, … ACT New Zealand Finance Spokesman Sir Roger Douglas.

Some a bit wary:

Full private ownership for all companies is likely to result in “moderate economic benefits” over the medium term, and more significant benefit could be derived from more tax reform and encouraging savings. The Treasury

Others are not so keen:

National [is] "flogging off the family silver" to pay for last year's tax cuts. Labour finance spokesman David Cunliffe

… the plan [is] disastrous and SOEs would end up in Chinese hands because China was one of the few countries with ready cash to invest in countries like New Zealand. NZ First leader Winston Peters

Selling assets to cover a budget deficit driven by tax cuts directed to the most wealthy is … like selling the family business to give the cash to Uncle John to buy his third Porsche. Green Party co-leader Russell Norman

… will do little to address debt problems and cause more problems than they solve, CTU economist Bill Rosenberg.

After selling $19 billion worth of state-owned companies in the eighties and nineties, New Zealand had MORE debt than when they started…: National has given away 14 billion dollars’ worth of tax cuts, of which $44 million a week is going to the top ten percent of income earners. …“Currently the energy SOES contribute over $600 million a year to public coffers. When they are sold, that revenue will go as well - mainly to overseas investors. Jim Anderton

Businesses want more say in NZ’s social development

The New Zealand Council for Sustainable Development (NZCSD) is calling for a greater say in helping to develop and implement social policies. Dick Hubbard – a NZCSD founding member and project champion for the NZCSD’s ‘social-role-of-business project – believes that, “while the Government commits about $33 billion of its $45 billion a year in social sector spending to “social protection”, the country is failing to address inequalities which carry with them a staggeringly high price” (Dominion Post, Tuesday Feb 15,2011).

The NZ Council for Sustainable Development wants business to have a place at the table with government and the not for profit sector in deciding social investment priorities.

In the meantime, other business leaders do not think inequality is such a big issue in attempting to pour scorn on the impacts of income inequality in developed countries Deborah Coddington and Rodger Kerr highlight their own prejudices. They attempt to explain how hanging onto the failed trickle-down theory of inequality (a few very rich people will allow some of their riches trickle down to the poor) will somehow being good for everyone and that the paying of a miniscule minimum wage, low benefits and youth rates will enhance the well-being of New Zealand’s least well-off.

Our children continue to go without

Not only are family tax credits, intended to assist families with the costs of successfully raising their children, conditional on parents being in paid work, but $285 million in cuts come into effect in early childhood education centre this month. The cuts affect centres with 80% or more qualified staff, i.e. over 2,000 centres and 93,000 children. Centres most affected will lose $20,000 - $80,000 per year. The result: centres increasing their fees, reducing their numbers of qualified staff, and reducing their staff to child ratios. No doubt some of our children will get less early childhood education, despite our knowledge that getting the best start in life helps prevent all sorts of problems later. A petition against the cuts can be found here.

Welfare Working Group’s report due out 22nd February

The Welfare Working Group report on their welfare reform recommendations is due out this week. John Key, before the report is even out, is signalling a five-year time-limit on benefits, random audits of sickness benefit certification, work for the dole after six months, and tougher conditions requiring paid work for parents (usually, women raising children alone) who are receiving the domestic purposes benefit.

The debate has begun with both Colin James commenting in the Christchurch Press on the value of work “This is true, if the work confers dignity, which not all work does. But if children are less well fed, cared for and educated, and have less self esteem as a result, that might drive up benefit, health, addiction and prison costs 10 or 15 years hence”. Simon Collins reports in the NZ Herald that a “Bombshell is on its way for beneficiaries” with the “…report's main thrust… extending the obligation to look for paid work to the vast majority of beneficiaries between age 18 and 64”.

Gordon Campbell in his Werewolf Blog, The politics behind the government’s welfare reform process spells out some very sobering realities about how beneficiaries will be once again be used as political fodder in the upcoming Election Campaign. Those of us working at the flax roots level know that the number of unemployed didn’t rise from 17,000 in 2007 to 67,000 and rising in 2011 because people don’t want to work! It rose because the jobs aren’t there – the unemployed and the beneficiaries are paying the costs of the government’s fiscal rebalancing and the clearing of government debt. We should be praising them for the sacrifices they are making for the public good and seeking ways to decrease the negative impact on their health and wellbeing, not preparing to abuse them for circumstances outside of their control.

Challenges for Government’s youth policies

A number of the Government’s policies for our young people are being challenged, some with reason others for the sensational value of the headlines.

In the former category (i.e. policies being challenged with reason) there are the boot camps for young offenders. The early results for the ‘boot camps’ support the points made by many submitters to the Fresh Start policies when they were first proposed. Young people need to develop life skills and the ability to live crime free in our communities and with their families, not taken off to remote places in a quasi-military environment, toughened up and then put back on the streets! The boot camp programmes are meeting with limited success with 53% of young people reoffending within months of completing their first courses.

In the latter category (unwarranted headline seeking) the programmes established to provide employment for young New Zealanders under the Community Max scheme have had a once over lightly critique from TV3. This really seems like a headline grabbing exercise in fact the programmes highlighted seem to have achieved reasonable employment or further education results for the young participants. The report highlights only that they did not seem to produce a lot of product – when in fact maintaining young peoples’ engagement with the workforce was the principle driver of the scheme. Bill English has defended the scheme saying they will be monitored against how many of the programmes’ participants went onto get employment.

NZCCSS believes it is important to ensure all of our young people get a chance to start their working lives and careers well. The Community Max schemes are too small and too stop/start in nature to make a significant impact into our terrible youth unemployment rates. They need to be built on and further developed not attacked and undermined – we need more employment initiatives for our young people – not less.

Child abuse reporting biased and sensationalised

A research project undertaken by an Eastern Institute of Technology lecturer, Raema Merchant, demonstrated the sensationalised and biased approach to reporting child harm by New Zealand’s media. It is difficult to have the rational society-wide discussion on how to properly support families and communities to care for our at risk children when such sensational reporting is the norm.

A more balanced approach and greater depth of reporting would create an environment where real change is possible. It may even allow for those families that are have isolated themselves to hide the risks their lifestyles present to their children to seek help rather than fear they will be the next headline.

The researcher asks, “On the other hand, the question must be raised whether the media are aware of what is happening in the community but ignore the information, choosing instead to focus on issues that are more sensational or newsworthy.” She went onto say “Stories that were “different” or more sensational were more likely to “hook” the interest of the public, so it is not surprising that the media write more about the gruesome or shocking aspects than an article about a government initiative to educate people. In writing stories based on court hearings or police action, journalists considered the public to be avid consumers of crime and the grisly details of child abuse.”

People before Pokies bill

Te Ururoa Flavell has had his Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill drawn from the ballot and it is awaiting its first reading in Parliament. This bill seeks to reform the current pokie machine profits trust system. It proposes abolishing independent pokie trusts, returning more of the profits to the community and ensuring that the communities where the money is raised is the community the money gets returned to and to allow communities to have a say in how many pokie machines should be allowed in their neighbourhoods.

The People before Pokies coalition is looking for your support in encouraging politicians to allow this bill to progress beyond its first reading. Like so many sensible private members bills it is likely that without a show of support from us all it will be voted down at its first reading and not even get to select committee and public submissions. Big business and politics will ensure that this bill gets squashed before it even gets started so get on line and check out the People before Pokies coalition website, sign and post a postcard – make a difference!

What happens when WINZ won’t help?

A young central Otago man recently appeared in Court after Work and Income stood him down after he voluntarily left work. He turned to crime to support himself after being placed on a 13 week stand-down as he could not see how else he could support himself.

Community Organisation Grants Scheme election nominations open

Nominations for committee members to sit on their local Community Organisation Grants Scheme (COGS) have opened and close on March 18. Further information on eligibility and the election process, call 0800 824 824 or visit more

What’s on?

NZCCSS Results Based Accountability Workshop

NZCCSS is hosting this workshop in Wellington on March 1st. This full day workshop is designed for managers and key staff of NZCCSS member organisations who are seriously starting or have begun the journey towards implementing results based accountability systems within their social service agencies.

Rod Watts, Vaughan Milner and Sue Quinn will share their experiences in getting their (and other organisations’) staff buy-in, developing organisational skills, developing data collection tools and reporting formats. They will highlight successes and pitfalls of the approaches they have taken over the last years of progress to reach the advanced level of results based accountability reporting their respective organisations have now achieved.

Please see attached a flyer for an IPS symposium on 21 February on The costs of Crime: Towards Fiscal Responsibility’.

Parenting courses

Learn some great parenting skills at Napier Family Centres courses on parenting children and teenagers more

Community Housing Conference

Learn more about community housing at the Community Housing Aotearoa Conference 22-23 March Lincoln Green Hotel and Conference Centre. Community Housing Aotearoa also produce a useful handy newsletter.

Neighbours Day

Neighbours Day Aotearoa is about building caring communities for all New Zealanders, starting with those we live nearest to.

The New Zealand Community Economic Development Conference 2011

The New Zealand Community Economic Development Conference 2011 has been confirmed for 19-20 April at the Trusts Stadium Waitakere in Auckland. The theme of the conference is Making it happen: from possibility to profitability and will feature a host of leading practitioners from New Zealand and overseas.

For more information and registration details go to

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