Wednesday 9 March 2011

Policy Watch

This edition of Policy Watch is dedicated to the people of Canterbury, their
friends, relatives, colleagues and companions. We send you our aroha and
continued willingness to help in any way we can. We wish you strength and
courage in the weeks and months ahead. And in the small kindnesses we all give
and receive from one another, we hope you are able to find some respite, some
ways of restoring your own and your collective energy. Some peace.

Christchurch Earthquake – the strongest must carry the bulk of the burden

There are mind-bogglingly large numbers being thrown around about the impact of the Christchurch earthquake. Billions of dollars of rebuild costs (Treasury estimates $15 billion), one of the world's largest insurance events world’s larger insurance events, ten thousand homes that may need to be demolished, 70,000 people who have left Christchurch. This conveys the impression of an almost overwhelming burden for our small country to carry.

“I will pay higher taxes for Christchurch” - One important task in the months and years ahead will be to decide how to share the burden of re-building. Almost immediately after the quake interest free student loans and the Working for Families tax package were put into question, along with ideas such as tripling the EQC levy on insurance policies or a special levy on high income earners (as was used in Australia for the Queensland disaster). This is a time to expect the strongest (i.e. the wealthiest and highest earners) to be putting up their hands and offering to shoulder the burden of this disaster. They should not expect the Government to cut welfare and education spending that helps the some of the people who are among those affected by the earthquake – young people seeking higher education and low and middle income families caring for children. Now is the time for wealthier New Zealanders to join Matthew Hooten in saying – “I will pay higher taxes for Christchurch”

Christchurch NGO Updater website
NZCCSS has set up this website on Thursday 3rd March as a service to NGOs in Christchurch to share information about their current location, operational status, assistance needs or offers of assistance to other organisations. More than 30 Christchurch agencies have already entered information.

NZFVWO has posted general earthquake information on its website and it also includes a Google Groups links for offers of help and equipment in Christchurch

Social Services in Christchurch have been doing phenomenal work since the earthquake struck. Despite forced re-location for the Methodist Mission, Presbyterian Support, Anglican City Mission, Catholic Social Services and The Salvation Army, all these agencies have continued to operate and assist people with a huge range of needs. The Catholic Social Services and Anglican City Mission expect to be back in their central city premises this week. Baptist Church social services have been doing a fantastic job .

Papanui Baptist pastor Ed Karlsen voices the thoughts of many in Christchurch when he says “People have lost income and jobs. Although the government and others like Red Cross have promised great things, which we so appreciate, the time all of this will kick in is still weeks away, if not months. Last time many of our people gave up because of the red tape. We responded by setting up our own fund for those affected the most, but this time we cannot fill the needs.”

Specialist Social Workers and Counsellors and other volunteer assistance will continue to be needed over the coming months. NZCCSS helped organise teams of social workers to support the teams visiting neighbourhoods in Christchurch and is also working closely with member agency The Salvation Army to provide lists of potential volunteers for their work. People interested in volunteering should contact Bo Liu at NZCCSS (04) 4732627 for further information

Strategies for helping after an earthquake

SKIP advice for family and children

Ministry of Health coping with stress

Employers when staff are grieving

100 State houses have been declared uninhabitable by HNZC as well as another 500 with significant damage out of the total of 6,000 HNZC homes in Christchurch. HNZC is working to relocate people and help with repairs and has extended its rent relief for some affected suburbs

Welfare numbers down by 10,000

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has already achieved 10% of the Welfare Working Group report’s goal (see comments below) of reducing benefit numbers by 100,000!? February benefit number of 344,060 people receiving benefits is down almost exactly 10,000 on January (354,058). Unfortunately such improvement in the figures will not continue as the effect of the Christchurch earthquake comes through. Minister Bennett reports that 35,000 staff and self-employed are receiving temporary support through the emergency support package.

Welfare reform policies without aroha are lousy policies

Just when the natural world is underlining our dependence on one another, the Welfare Working Group has unveiled what we call a ‘Grand Welfare Plan’ (GWP) based on ‘personal responsibility.’ The 43 recommendations to reduce the ‘great evil of welfare dependency’ aim to cut the expected 2021 ‘benefit liability’ from $47 billion to $34 billion.’

GWP features include:
Cutting benefit numbers by 100,000 between 2013/14 and 2021. A new agency called Employment and Support New Zealand to oversee this reduction via ‘a work focused welfare system.’ Beneficiaries all getting the same benefit called the Jobseeker Support benefit (with supplements for particular circumstances). Beneficiaries getting the idea that they should be supporting themselves and their families via paid employment. Single parents looking for 20 hours work a week once their youngest child is three and 30 hours a week when the youngest turns six. Benefits tied to making sure children go to school and get regular health checks. If you don’t do this, then your benefit gets managed by a third party. People with drug and alcohol problems who refuse to attend treatment and counselling services having benefits cut. More investment in early childhood education and after-school care and drug and alcohol rehabilitation services would be needed to deal with all of the above.

Slight problems with the GWP recommendations
- there are no jobs! When jobs are available, people on benefits tend to go and get them. At the moment there are not a lot of jobs available. In fact, employment fell by 11,000 in the last quarter of 2010. Let’s also remember – people on the DPB are already doing a job – it’s called looking after the children. Employers have to want to employ people. They are not usually keen on employing sick people and invalids. Stories about people with psychiatric conditions who would love jobs are plentiful

A parallel situation applies to Māori males. The report laments the high numbers on benefits, but ignores the fact 40% of all Maori males over the age of 15 years, have either been imprisoned or served a community sentence. The rate of imprisonment for Maori in 2009/10 was 634 per 100,000 people, compared with a rate of 192 per 100,000 for New Zealand overall. Try getting an employer to hire you when you have a criminal record.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett calls the report ‘an opportunity to change the welfare system and would feed into Government work’ and Prime Minister John Key has indicated he will take into the election campaign any implementation proposals from the report.

John McCarthy, from Auckland social services provider LIFEWISE describes the recommendations as "cruel, draconian and lacking in solutions that will properly deal with inter-generational poverty and its resulting social problems for NZ children and families" and “a missed opportunity to deal with poverty and inequality

Social Services umbrella groups have pointed out that there will have to be massive investment in the social services to support people into employment. Yet at the moment they can’t even get an inflation increase for current funding levels

Mike O’Brien from the Alternative Welfare Working Group comments: “There is no attention to issues about poverty, or the work of caring for children and dependent relatives. Even if their proposals were able to achieve their stated goal of reducing benefit numbers by 100,000 over the next ten years, many will still remain living in poverty.

Gordon Campbell points out that “…welfare reform on this scale will not only punish and marginalise the poor – with all the health/law and order costs that will create in its wake. It will also present employers with a golden opportunity to permanently undercut the wages and conditions of all but the elite and skilled members of the New Zealand work force.

Older People benefit from new Technology

Older people have benefited already from new technology supported services for older people in Canterbury. The InterRAI computer-based needs assessment tool has been a great help since the earthquake in Christchurch. The Vulnerable People team was able to work with international support to review the database and identify the older people in the community who might be at greatest risk. This enabled the emergency response team in Christchurch to better target its work.

Petition against bilingual education cuts

Cuts to the Tupu and FOlauga series of resources by the government last year have prompted the Pacific Languages and Literacy Petition . Its asking the government to introduce and fully fund Pacific languages literacy and English literacy development through Bilingual Education programmes for Pacific students to improve academic achievement and success and improve their overall wellbeing. Contact: Feeonaa Wall Final presentation to parliament is being aimed at April 1st.

Family Violence Lenten resource

PresCare is a Presbyterian Church and Presbyterian Support joint initiative to focus over Lent on the issues of family violence. They have produced a range of resources that are online at . Churches and individual are invited to use the resources during the season of Lent, leading up to Easter. Sadly, the stress of events such as the Christchurch earthquake often lead to an increase in family violence making the work of Family Works even more critical.

Catholic agency for justice, peace and development Caritas has also produced a Lenten resource on a consistent ethic of life that proclaims the dignity of every person. We are united by our common humanity, created in the image of God, and called to live in active love and tolerance of all who are different from ourselves. Download the resources online:

A Methodist Public Question study of Inequality and Welfare Reform has been prepared for Lent. This is available on the NZCCSS website under Publications.
We also expect it be on the Methodist website under Public Questions

Key Child Support review submission themes

Revenue Minister Peter Dunne is likely to release a summary of the main themes of public submissions on the Child Support review next month. Main issues include: level of child support payments, issues around shared care, work and earnings incentives, more

What's On

Two workshops by Dr Walter Bera:

Narrative, Collaborative and Transformative Justice Approaches for the Effects of Sexual Abuse and Trauma, 17th March, St James Church Hall, Lower Hutt

Buddhist Psychology – Mindfulness, Narrative and Creativity, 18th March St James Church Hall, Lower Hutt. Contact Lynn Barlow, ph 04 569 7112

New Zealand Community Economic Development Conference 2011 19-20 April in Auckland. Learn more about “Making it happen: from possibility to profitability.” Register here

Community Action Research Network (CARN) open forum 9.30- 1.00pm, Kohia Education Centre, University of Aucklnad, 76 Epsom Avenue , Auckland (this needs more)

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