Tuesday 5 July 2011

Policy Watch

We know from New Zealand and international research that if children start life in poverty their chances of achieving well being in later life are greatly diminished …” Ruby Duncan, NZCCSS President

‘An intolerable reality’ - Vulnerability Report Issue 9

Jim Moriaty recently spelled it out in an interview in the May issue of Tui Motu. “It’s not just Māori who are on the wrong end of the statistics. There are plenty of other poor families and migrant families. It’s an intolerable reality that we have somehow learned to tolerate.” Too many of our indigenous people and too many of our young people are struggling. Māori unemployment is 16.1% and youth unemployment is 17.5%. Māori youth unemployment is 28.8%. Pākeha unemployment is just under 5%. It’s all there in NZCCSS’s latest Vulnerability Report. Families Commissioner Kim Workman recently wrote “Māori are particularly vulnerable in times of economic hardship” (Families Commission, introduction to Whānau Taketake Māori, September 2010). So are our young people. They already carry the burden of being born during the last slump in the late 1980s and early 1990s. There are too many vulnerable people in Aotearoa New Zealand. Our social services are struggling due to over-demand and funding reductions. The services are the last resort. When they close or are reduced, our poorest people are turned away.

‘Intolerable reality’ at odds with Manaakitanga

This is the week to Whakanuia Te Wiki o te Reo Māori (Celebrate Māori language week). Its theme is Manaakitanga” which is about how we make people feel welcome when they are in our company, and how we give regard to and care for others when hosting visitors. The sort of thing we do when people come to our home. The way we want to welcome our rugby world cup visitors. The way we want to welcome our children into the world – or do we?

It’s a bit of a jump, but not a very big one to take a look at our county as a whole. Making sure everyone who lives in Aotearoa New Zealand feel welcome means making sure everyone has enough to eat, enough to wear and a roof over their heads. It means ensuring everyone is included, and has access to all the basics we associate with a life worthy of a human being. It is particularly nauseating, not to mention embarrassing, many indigenous people are among those who suffer most from our national absence of manaakitanga.

We can do something: all it takes is a ‘Click’ to help reduce inequality and make reality more tolerable

Our latest issue of Kete Kupu explains why inequality hurts us all. We don’t have to put up with it. And there is something simple we all can do. And it’s right here too:

1. Follow the link http://www.closertogether.org.nz/take-action/?PHPSESSID=979f9383e1131ab914c6ece4dde6f96f

2. Click on the ‘take action now’ button

3. Fill in the boxes

4. Encourage others to do the same

Need more convincing? Try this: numbers of people receiving unemployment benefits have increased by 214.9% since 2008. In 2009 the number of children supported in homes dependent on a social welfare benefit was 211,736. It is now up to 232,262 – an additional 20,528 children who are likely to be living in poverty. Then there is the increase in basic living costs such as food, power, petrol and rent which are much greater than the increases in benefits and basic wages. In Westland, the Hokitika Guardian is reporting a 13 year high in food bank use and says unemployment is at the heart of it (29 June 2011).

Great material on responding to poverty and inequality in the UK can be found here

Welfare reform for $8.95

It was a brilliant idea. A Welfare and Social Sector Policy and Reform conference that featured some great speakers and some highly relevant stuff. The only problem was the $895.00 early bird price.

Undaunted, Welfare Justice, otherwise known as the Alternative Welfare Working group ran an alternative forum for just $8.95 or koha. It featured some great speakers and some highly relevant stuff. They also generously made it available on their website.

More children to be born in stables?

First time round, there was no room at the inn. This time round, there is no room at Housing New Zealand Corporation houses, a shortage of accessible alternatives, and emergency accommodation providers short on space. The general gist is this. From 1 July “only those in greatest need will get access to state houses,” according to the Minister of Housing. That means only those prioritised as A and B applicants get the houses. People on the C and D parts of the waiting list are referred to Housing New Zealand’s Options and Advice Service for help with other types of housing.

Tenancies will be reviewed every three years, and if tenants’ circumstances have improved “significantly”, then they will be assisted to move unless they are elderly or have a significant disability. All of the above means an end to the concept of a ‘state home for life,’ according to Minister Heatley. We wonder what will be the impact on the social fabric and community wellbeing.

The Minister wants to see other social housing providers meet more housing needs, and got $40 million in the budget to help it happen. An independent Social Housing Unit to work with the community housing sector is being set up. This has been welcomed by Community Housing Aotearoa, who wants to ensure ‘affordability and the strongest possible focus on people’s community-based needs.’ They have been involved in Auckland’s Spotlight on Housing Week which has involved collaboration between the many groups who work at the ‘frontline’ of housing needs.

Meantime, Labour’s Housing spokesperson has expressed concern that Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust loss of charitable status will discourage other community housing organisations.

She is also concerned Housing New Zealand is dropping nearly 3000 off its waiting list, and is getting rid of a whole lot more from the list from 1 July. “Thousands of state house tenants will be evicted if National wins the election and the ‘surplus’ properties sold.”

Adequate housing is recognised by the UN as a basic human right. Article 25 of the UN Declaration provides for us all to have “the right to a standard of living adequate for … health and well-being …, including … housing and …, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, [etc.].”

Aged Care Workforce Review Report

The National Health Board has published the full version of the Aged Care Workforce Review completed in March. A further review is now underway looking at the future workforce for people with dementia, so the directions indicated in this report reflect the way national health workforce policy for services for older people are most likely to go. The recommendations of the report focus on home and community based prevention and rehabilitative services to maximise independence, more work to support informal and family carers and developing clinical specialists who can support increasing the knowledge and skills of the wider workforce. The report also recommends trialling a “network information strategy” that helps people across the sector gain access to data to help them to provide optimal care. The full report and summary are online at http://healthworkforce.govt.nz/our-work/workforce-service-reviews/aged-care

Welcoming our Māori and Pasifika children

The Māori Affairs Select Committee is having an Inquiry into the Status and Wellbeing of Māori and Pasifika children. Every Child Counts spokesperson and chair of Te Kahui Mana Ririki Dr Hone Kaa has called the Inquiry ‘much needed’ and called for political leadership and political solutions. Some in government have said the Inquiry is not needed as we have Peter Gluckman’s report on reducing social and psychological morbidity during adolescence and the Minster of Social Development’s Green Paper on Children.

However, the Gluckman Report is a partial analysis. It is devoid of sociological, anthropological, economic, historical input. It even goes as far as describing the realm of the social and behavioural sciences as a “domain where there is considerable risk of relying on perception, anecdote or value-based discourse and over-riding the evidence base or generating solutions in the absence of data …” (p. 4). The Green Paper appears to be designed to examine specifically identified issues, e.g. information sharing to protect children, and greater use of schools after hours, for a range of activities.

Keeping our young people out of jail

Congratulations to Bill English on recognising that prisons are a "moral and fiscal failure." NZCCSS is pleased Mr English wants to keep our young people out of prison, and wants to see fewer “... young people coming into the ... pipeline where they start with a minor offence and end up with a 10-year sentence."

Waitakere Community Law Centre is about to hold a forum is to work positively with young people at a grassroots level, and highlight the importance of strength-based community approaches to youth offending (see ‘What’s On’ below.)

Dear Ms Rebstock, We need jobs

The Welfare Working group is very keen to move beneficiaries into jobs. Their recommendations document tells us “[e]nabling people to move into paid work reduces the risk of poverty, improves outcomes for children and supports social and economic well-being.” So what we need is jobs for people on benefits to move into. Paula Rebstock is chair of the Welfare Working Group; she is also Deputy Chair of Kiwirail which is busy laying people off. KiwiRail announced earlier this month proposals to cut 40 jobs in Dunedin and about another 30 in Wellington. This is around 25% of the jobs at Dunedin’s Hillside workshops. The union is recorded as saying the cuts are because KiwiRail decided not to tender for Auckland rail work and to send wagon contracts overseas. Apparently, KiwiRail think going overseas is essential because workshops here are not competitive enough on price and are not quick enough. There is a major contradiction here (pointed out by the Alliance): encouraging people on benefits to get jobs presupposes the existence of jobs.

We don’t need loan sharks

Government is targetting the unscrupulous credit companies that prey on unwary according to Minister of Commerce and Consumers Affairs, Simon Power. He is organising a financial summit that will look at asking whether the “Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act needs to be amended to provide more protection for consumers – including from irresponsible lending – or whether the same outcomes can be obtained from voluntary industry initiatives." The summit will be held in Auckland in August.
Maungakiekie MP, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga has welcomed the announcement, and has launched a Moneylenders (licensing and regulation) Bill 2011. This bill provides for a comprehensive regime change to combat the problems associated with some moneylenders or loan sharks”, says Mr Lotu-Iiga. The bill has received the endorsement of the Citizens Advice Bureau, the Salvation Army, Christians Against Poverty, the Auckland Credit Union, the BNZ and Mercury Energy.

In brief

Foster care
Fostering Kids (formerly the New Zealand Family and Fostercare Federation) and Child, Youth and Family have signed an agreement which will see training for foster carers which aligns with national qualifications.

Rethinking support for children
The Child Poverty Action Group wants rethinking of the Working for Families policies, especially in light of what has happened in Christchurch. CPAG is calling on the government to pay the same Working for Families tax credits to all low-income families, instead of cutting the support for children when parents are unable to work the prescribed number of hours more

Ensuring we include the Disability Sector
Disabilities Minister Tariana Turia is not included in the Ministerial working group examining recommendations from the Welfare Working Group, when many of the recommendations impact on people with disabilities. Labour’s Carmel Sepuloni has said this “effectively discriminates against all people with, or advocating for, disability issues.”

Kia Tutahi Standing Together Relationship Accord
Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, Tariana Turia, has announced an Accord which sets clear expectations about how government agencies and communities should work together. The document is to be signed at Parliament on 1 August. It has come about because of “the growing demand for the government to engage with communities in many different settings on a wide range of complex policy and service delivery questions” more


Arguments before and against reducing GST on food.

Maori politics lecturer Dr Maria Bargh argues MMP is the best system, of those on offer, for Maori representation in the New Zealand parliament. More info about the MMp campaign can be found at http://www.campaignformmp.org.nz/

What’s on

Waitakere Community Law Service is hosting a Youth Justice forum with keynote speakers who will discuss the current approach to youth justice and critically examine some of the myths and perspective on youth offending. 1 - 4 pm on Thursday 14 July, 2011; Unitec, Lecture Theatre 1, Ratanui Street, Henderson RSVP to carol@waitakerelaw.org.nz

Interfaith vigil for Christchurch: Wear red and black and join local youth representatives from faith communities in vigils involving prayer, song, meditation and reflection. Saturday of July 16th at St Matthew’s in the City at 6:30pm (Auckland); St Andrew’s on the Terrace at 5pm (Wellington); St Michael’s and All Angels at 5pm (Christchurch); Dunedin: St Paul’s Cathedral at 5pm (Dunedin). Donations to the Red Cross Earthquake Appeal

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini ke.

My strength does not come from me alone but also from others.

(Co-operation of many can bring the best results)

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