Tuesday 3 May 2011

Policy watch

“We stand looking forward to a century which is full of promise and full of peril. Human beings are confronting the question of how to use wisely the power that has been given to us through the discoveries of the last century. We shall not be converted to the promise of the future by more knowledge, but rather by an increase of loving wisdom and reverence, for life, for the earth and for one another.”
Royal Wedding Address by Dr Richard Chartres Bishop of London

Reverence for one another: reducing the gaps between us

Our youngest people’s suffering increases as the gap between us increases. Our children are getting serious skin infections at double the rate they did in 1990. The study by Michael Baker, Cathryn O’Sullivan and others found that serious skin infections have increased from 298 cases per 100,000 to 547 cases per 1000,000 for children aged 0-14 years. Resulting hospitalisations directly cost DHBs about $15 million. Worst affected are pre-school children, Māori, and Pasifika children. Children from the most deprived neighbourhoods have 4.3 times the rate of infection of children from the least deprived areas. This fits with earlier epidemiological research showing “a marked increase in rates of hospitalisation for infectious diseases in NZ, along with rising inequalities … . Much of this increase happened during the 1990s when income inequalities were also rising.”

The divide is not just associated with serious skin infections. Secondary Principals' Association of New Zealand president Patrick Walsh has commented that "when you get a recession like the last couple of years, it tends to accentuate the poverty divide that we are seeing in schools," A Linwood College research project – Lane (Literacy and Numeracy Empowerment) – showed eyesight, hearing and oral health problems were stopping young people from learning, and leading to behavioural problems in the classroom. Medical interventions resulted in a 12 per cent improvement in pupils' achievements and improved classroom behaviour. Government currently spends $5.6 million on nurses in more than 100 low-decile schools to improve young people's health, according to Minster of Health, Tony Ryall. This funding is currently being reviewed.

Reverence for one another: ensuring non-violent relationships

"The Girls Self Defence Project" will finish on 1 June this year. Women's Refuge services are also being cut by $700,000. Meantime, we hear reports of three children being admitted to Waikato hospital for non-accidental injuries. Labour’s Annette King said that there is “…a hollowing out of essential services for the most vulnerable people … . The potential for greater harm than ever is extremely worrying.” The Greens Sarah Delahunty described the decision as “likely to put many women and children at risk.” Paula Bennett, Minister of Social Development has responded by saying that the funding is being moved toward frontline services and not away from it. She says the Self Defence providers can apply to the new Family Services Fund and that the “National Collective of Women’s Refuges received $7.6milliion in 2008/9, $9.2 million in 2009/10 (including an extra $1.7 million through the Community response Fund) and $7.2 million in funding this financial year.” The Women’s Refuges are also allowed to apply to the new fund. The maximum amount available to any one provider under the fund is $100,000.00 (GST excl) per year. So while government says it has to spend $36 million on contesting the 2013 America's Cup because of the previous government commitment, it looks like the Women’s Refuges are getting around 22% less this year than they got last year. Then they are about to lose another 10%, but it’s all ok because they can apply to a contestable fund to get up to one seventh of the amount they are losing – or are we completely wrong here?

Reverence for one another: meeting the diverse needs of our elders

Director of Massey University's Research Centre for Maori Health and Development, Chris Cunningham says the needs of ageing Maori are diverse and will affect the level of care they will need when they reach retirement age. For example, our government policies are better if they recognise the high degree of social financial support made by older Māori to whānau, churches and marae. “Some Maori sub-groups will be better positioned than others to fend for themselves.” ‘No one size fits all’, when it comes to supporting older Māori.

Meantime, in Christchurch, around 600 rest home beds have been lost. Nine Christchurch rest homes were either wholly or partly evacuated because of earthquake damage. There have been worries the earthquake means older people needing residential care no longer have any choice in where they could go. People fear the lack of capacity means those from one side of town may be forced to go into rest-home care on the other side, away from family and friends.

Canterbury DHB has responded by fast-tracking a new community rehabilitation and support service for older people to help manage the need for hospital and high level aged care services. Planning and Funding General Manager Carolyn Gullery is reported as saying in replacing the damaged rest homes in Christchurch “it would be disappointing if we simply rebuilt what we previously had”. Any new approach will look to better meet the need for dementia services and other higher-level care, as rest home level care can now be provided in people’s own homes.

Reverence for community: rebuilding Canterbury

"If you don't have … engagement with the community, the process not only gets bogged down, but you won't get acceptance by the community of the plans and your whole recovery strategy is put at risk." – John Hamilton, National Civil Defence Controller on handing over to Cera. Hamilton has said that Cera’s priority needs to be engaging with the Christchurch community. Others agree. In a recent article in the Christchurch Star, Ali Jones points out that the democratically elected Community Boards are being ignored, and another layer of bureaucracy added with Minster Brownlee calling for expressions of interest for a new community forum. She argues it is “time for community boards to step up and represent the suburbs they have been democratically elected to serve … and they should be given the responsibility of doing just that, for the people of Christchurch.”

There are some progress stories. Housing New Zealand staff and contractors have inspected all earthquake –damaged state homes. Between 22 February and 18 April they carried out more than 3,920 of the most urgent of the 5,621 health and safety repairs on 2,352 houses.

Reverence for one another: caring for our most vulnerable

Payment for carers - The High Court late last year upheld a Human Rights Tribunal ruling which said a Ministry of Health policy to pay carers only if they were not related to the patient was discriminatory. The Ministry of Health has filed a notice of appealing the decision. They have already spent $1.075 million over the last five years fighting court action by seven families who are unpaid carers of disabled relatives.

Foodbank needs - The Downtown Community Ministry (DCM) foodbank recently reported being almost empty. They report a 44% increase in the number of food parcels given out in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same quarter in 2010. The story has a familiar ring to it. Other social agencies around the country tell stories about high demand. DCM is concerned that policy changes have seen all sectors of the community tightening their spending, but low income earners and beneficiaries are hit the hardest. Thankfully, owing to the kindness of the community, the cupboards are no longer bare

Loan sharks and the problem of the teeth

Loan sharks have big teeth and tend to gobble up those in the most financial difficulty. A recent article by Simon Collins illustrates the ease of the gobbling process. Simply find a desperate family, lend them some money, and then charge them interest rates of between 19 and 52 percent. Collins quotes Family Budgeting Services Federation boss, Raewyn Fox, [as saying] budgeting service clients owe $63 million to finance companies. Other loan shark observers, e.g. Salvation Army Auckland community ministries director Jason Dilger, said 60 per cent of people requesting food parcels were paying off debts to avoid repossession of such essential items.

However, new guidelines may take some of the gleam out of the loan shark’s teeth. We wish Minister Bennett good luck in seeking to have the finance company sector “self-regulate” its practices. The new guidelines issued by the sector association and MSD are designed to “educate people” about not taking on too much debt, and finance companies being more transparent about interest rates and not encouraging people to sign up to loans they know their clients cannot afford.

The Family Budgeting Federation has been involved in developing the new guidelines. They, and others agree, the guidelines are only part of the loan shark issue. Some of the ‘fish’ might be a little wiser, and some of the sharks a little more choosy. But as these guidelines seem to have no teeth, the size of the loan sharks’ teeth size has not changed.

Desperate people do desperate things

Pokie machine spending has risen for the first time in at least four years. Internal Affairs figures show people lost $205.1 million in pokie machines in the first three months of this year – $5.2m more than at the start of 2010. Pokie spending in Christchurch rose by 3.2 percent even though many of the machines either no longer exist or are harder to get to. Our Lotteries Commission CEO says for a relatively small sum, people could get "positive thoughts" about the chance of winning a vast fortune "when a lot of other things may not be so positive". Problem Gambling Foundation CEO says the rise could be due to “… increased desperation, and people looking for ways out of the financial difficulties that they're in.


Strengthening values to help make change here

Online tool to help Cantabrians affected by the earthquake get jobs here


Wall Street in the Wake of the Global Financial Crisis: A Religious Perspective- a seminar by The Rev. Dr James Cooper Monday 16 May 2011 12.30pm - 1.30pm, Railway West Wing, Room RWW501. All welcome. More

The Budget comes out on Thursday May 19

Post-Budget Breakfasts: Budget 2011: Children, collateral damage Auckland Fri 20 May

Wellington: Fri 20 May

Budget union and community rally: Tell the Government: Don’t Cut Our Future! 19 May, Parliament Grounds, 12.15 – 1.00pm – (prior to the Budget being read). To show our concern about spending cuts for social and community services, while continuing to cut taxes for the wealthy. Community groups may want to bring their own banners and/ or join with the common theme of Don’t Cut Our Future. Any questions, ideas or contributions to make please contact: Georgie McLeod: georginam@nzctu.org.nz, Conor Twyford: conor.twyfrod@psa.org.nz, Eileen Brown : eileenb@nzctu.org.nz

Talk on Dementia - Professor Jill Manthorpe talks about findings from her two recent UK studies Thinking about memory problems: before, during and after a diagnosis of dementia. St Johns Centre, 170 Willis Street,Wellington, May 12, 3.00-4.15, gold coin admission more or mailto:Diana_ONeill@moh.govt.nz

Mandatory social worker registration The Social Workers’ Registration Board want feedback by 1 July 2011.

Reverence for one another: The last word

“As a society, we have many opportunities for making each other depressed, anxious, unproductive and, ultimately, physically ill. We can choose, as some do, to claim that these are merely manifestations of the natural state of human existence. On the other hand, there is ample evidence that safe, inclusive and supportive families, neighbourhoods and workplaces produce a happier, healthier and more productive society.” Rob Moodie, The way we treat each other.

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