Tuesday 3 July 2012

Policy Watch

The Great Social Sector Restructure Trifecta

1. Fewer NGOs: Investing in Services for Outcomes

Watch out for more news coming this way on this one.  It's all about "enhancing the way government works with the social services sector to achieve better results for vulnerable children, young people and families."

Government says this means: "simpler and consistent contracting [to] align the Ministry of Social Development’s $550 million investment in social services with achieving Government’s results for families and communities," i.e:

  • ' ...funding is shifted to services that make a proven difference around government priorities and results are demonstrable;'
  •  "Funding decisions are driven by  Government priorities for families and communities;"
  • Use of a Capability Investment Resource established this month for community social services to use "to strengthen their organisation, their responsiveness to their community, and alignment with Government priorities;"
  •  Results-based contracts with providers 'havimg more explicit result measures in their contracts, which are agreed between the Ministry and providers and are closely monitored';
  • Ineffective services and those that are not performing well will no longer be funded;
  • Increased collaboration and reduced duplication.

In Bill English's words to the  NZCCSS Future Wellbeing conference in April “Contracts will be stopped and organisations will disappear.” ‘This will mean there will not be hundreds of organisations’. …   Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett suggested we watch the contracting with NGOs to provide services to young people as a guide to what will occur with everything else.

Which brings us to the second leg of the Social Sector Trifecta

2. Dependent Independent Youth 

It all happens this month.  First there's Job Streams which 'consolidates Work and Income employment programmes such as Job Ops and Straight to Work into two streams costing $62 million for the next year.  It includes Flexi-Wage, i.e. flexible wage subsidies up to a maximum of $21,060 per year for those at highest risk of staying on benefit long-term, and Skills for Industry (short, job-focused training for specific employment opportunities with a subsidy of up to $7,000 per person).  Number one priority is young people at high risk of long-term benefit dependence.  This came into effect on 1 July.  Sole parents subject to work testing  from October will also qualify.'

Changes to the Independent Youth Benefit arrive at the end of the month.  Work and Income have written a letter to service providers about how "young people will register with an appropriate third party provider who will be responsible for engaging with the young person and managing their relationship. The plan is to get 'more young people back in school or training' because this is the "best possible way to give them a good start in life."

There are plenty of cabinet papers with the details.  They also show there is plenty more for social services coming this way fast.

3. Top Ten Targets Total Population

If youth support changes is the skinny leg of the Social Sector Trifecta, the fat leg is government's Top Ten Targets.  (The others are subsets of this one, really). Government and the media describe it as "public service targets" which make it sound like civil servants swapping or losing desks following an over-priced  five-centimetre thick (big C) Consultants' report, various iterations of (little c) consultation,  much to-ing and fro-ing, and Decisions Being Made.

It's not like that.  The consultants do exist, and yes, they did prepare a report, but the impact goes way beyond Wellington.

John Armstrong describes it as as an 'invasion of Labour's traditional domains.' as it covers child wellbeing, immunisations, improved early life care, improved educational achievement etc.  Dave Henderson, Co-ordinator at ANGOA, says all parts of the system need to be involved – from the beginning.  Ros Rice, (Executive Officer of NZ Council of Social Services) points out "we’re [the Social Sector] ... delivering the majority of services required to achieve the targets set out by the Government – it makes no sense not to use us and see what does and doesn’t work.”

Policy Watcher will attempt to make it simple, but for boffinish-readers, there's heaps more at http://www.ssc.govt.nz/bps-results-for-nzers

Reduced Welfare Dependency

 1. Reduce the number of people continuously receiving working-age benefits for more than 12 months by 30%, from 78,000 in April 2012 to 55,000 by 2017 (the new Job Seeker Support payment).  These people include unemployment beneficiaries and lots of DPB, sickness and widows benefit recipients who will face a part or full time work test. The measure of success?  – the number of working-age people continuously receiving JSS for more than 12 months.

Supporting Vulnerable Children

2.  In 2016, 98% of children starting school will have participated in quality early childhood education because of:
  • providers better enabled to engage hard-to-reach children
  • funding policies to encourage participation
  • support from schools obtained to find and engage children under six years of age
  • targeted intervention where participation is very low [see announcement in this area]

3.(a)  Increase infant immunisation rates to achieve and maintain 95% coverage of eight-month-olds fully immunised with the scheduled vaccinations by 2017 via
  • every pregnant woman supported to have a named GP before birth
  • every baby registered with a GP before they are two-weeks-old
  • pre-call infants for six-week immunisation when they are four-weeks-old and promptly recall infants who are not up-to-date with immunisations
  • better join up two services for families – Well Child/Tamariki Ora and Family Start.

(b) A five-year aspirational goal of reducing rheumatic fever by 50% to 2.1 cases per 100,000 per year by 2017 (two thirds reduction) via
  •  throat swabbing and treatment to children at high risk
  • raised community and health sector awareness of the disease
  • improved knowledge of rheumatic fever through surveillance and research
  • work across government agencies to address risk factors like housing conditions and hygiene in schools – for example, by ensuring hot water and soap are available [but no mention of the impact of poverty on health - see NZ Medical Association]

4. Reduce the number of assaults on children by 25% from 4,019 children expected to experience substantiated physical abuse  to 2,936 in 2017.  Actions will come from the White Paper for Vulnerable Children due in August this year.  Government says they could include:
  • "better screen children for vulnerability"
  • "fully assess the needs of vulnerable children"
  • "better enable frontline workers and communities to communicate concerns about children"
  • "make services more focused on results" - see the Fewer NGOs section above.

 Boosting skills and employment

5. 85% of 18 year olds will have achieved NCEA level 2 or an equivalent qualification in 2017.
More information is getting announced about this regularly, e.g. recent announcements on vocational  pathways .  Vehicles include:
  • strengthening the "relevance of the learning offered to young people through vocational pathways, skills-based learning and stronger linkages and networks between schools, other providers and employers."
  •  flexible provision via "expansion of secondary-tertiary programmes such as Trades Academies and through Service Academies and fees free tertiary places".
  • "Identifying and engaging learners at risk of leaving education or who have already left education by working with schools and communities to progress mechanisms for accountability and transparency for young people at risk of disengagement from education and training."
Watch for the "strong community and sector engagement strategy which will build leadership capacity and capability, galvanise support, and empower the community to take action"  due in the next few weeks.  Info on the Education forum here

6. 55% of 25 to 34-year-olds will have a qualification at level 4 or above in 2017

The plan is to work with education providers and communities to ensure the students are attracted and they get the "high quality education needed by industry." It also involves more consolidation; this time "work and current system incentives, to ensure education providers  lift the quality of tertiary education and focus on those who currently aren’t completing qualifications".  Expect info on what is going on, tracking of progress, "and improved links between providers and work."

 Reducing crime

7. Government wants a 15% reduction in  the crime rate from June 2011 to June 2017 which  means around 45,000 fewer violent crimes each year by 2017.

8.  Government plans to reduce reoffending by 25% by June 2017, i.e.  600 fewer prisoners, 4,000 fewer community offenders, and 18,500 fewer victims each year from 2017.

Measures include:
  • " re-imprisonment rate of prisoners within 12 months of release."
  • "reconviction rate of community sentenced offenders within 12 months of sentence commencement."
Watch for a plan that "targets high-crime locations, provides strong support for people at risk of repeat victimisation, improves interventions for vulnerable youth, reduces the availability of alcohol[?], increases availability of alcohol and drug treatment - both in prison and in the community – and invests in reintegration and rehabilitation for offenders."

Improving interaction with government (Read 'more business focused government')

9. New Zealand businesses [not communities, citizens, NGOs] "have a one-stop online shop for all government advice and support they need to run and grow their business."  This  "will deliver faster online services, better integration of services and services designed for business."  "Services will be structured around the needs of businesses rather than what works for government agencies".  By 2017, "an average of 70 per cent of New Zealanders' most common transactions with government will be completed in a digital environment by 2017 - up from 24 per cent currently."

10.  More digital approach when dealing with government, including:
  • people not having to enter in information multiple times
  • identifying and fostering good practice
  • building on what has been learned in Canterbury
  • 'Engaging other government agencies, NGOs and the private sector to find ways of improving what we do.'
Read Gordon Campbell's take on the government targets here
Read Talking Cents Reforming Social Welfare backgrounder here

Please sir, can I have some medicine?

Government says people can always get assistance with the new increased prescription charges from Work and Income. Knowing that hardship grants seem to have got harder to get, we asked Work and Income about how this help would happen. Doesn't look like there are any special favours here. There is the Disability Allowance if you are eligible, assessments for Temporary Additional Support, and Special Needs Grants where you have to complete budgeting activities after the third payment.

 Poor people results in Special Needs Grants requests results in Budget Advice Service business. Government has noticed this and so has given the busy budget advisors in 155 organisations a "one-off boost of $589,000" [to] deliver budgeting services. Paula Bennett says “this funding boost will be distributed equitably among the 155 organisations.” According to our maths, that's an average of $3,800 per organisation.

Home Maintenance – Easy Guide for Older People

Research shows that older people often put off repairs and maintenance because they feel it’s too hard and would cost too much. But there is a greater cost – older people struggle to stay healthy if their house is cold, uncomfortable or unsafe. The wonderful team at CRESA have created three practical checklist tools to help people assess what repairs and maintenance work needs to be done and who the best person is to do it. These tools are now available online and can be downloaded here for free from the Good Homes website http://www.goodhomes.co.nz/

Welfare Reform Recipients

Government will pay Paula Rebstock $58,500 per annum to chair the Board overseeing the welfare reforms. Board members will receive $26,500. They will also be reimbursed for actual and reasonable expenses, e.g. taxis, flights, accommodation, mileage and meals (info supplied under Official Information Act).

While they are getting their meals reimbursed, Chris DPB Recipient will be working out what to cook for dinner on $333.01 gross per week or $17,316.52 per year.

Quick Bites

Report of the Social Services Committee into the identification, rehabilitation, and care and protection of child offenders. Contains recommendations to swap "from a model too focused on what works for agencies, to a model focused on best practice and what works for these children and their families."

Services for people with dementia: (1)  two 20 bed dementia units at Bob Owens Retirement Village in Tauranga. (2) a demetia unit at Rimutaka prison

Toolbox parenting programme for grandparents raising grandchildren free from MSD
Resource includes nine hours of practical parenting advice on DVD with a manual, which carers can work their way through at home.

Social Housing Schemozzle
- Frustrations expressed in Wellington
- Grants to Comcare and others in Christchurch

No win situtation - Fail drug test, get sanctioned; Don't apply, lose benefit
Jacinda Ardern (Labour), said this government policy is not a good idea as cutting support reduces drug users chances of rehabilitation [let alone access to food, power, housing etc].  It comes into effect in mid 2013.


Strengthening Systems to Eliminate Family Violence: Family Violence Symposium 28 May 2012, Wellington. Presentations from the symposium co-hosted by the Families Commission and the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse can be downloaded here

Blueprint ll: the Mental Health Commission's vision for how New Zealand can improve the way it supports and helps people with mental illnesses and addictions.

 Poverty Action Waikato’s new website

Window on Waikato Poverty Issue ll: Employment, skill shortages, employment for young people in the Waikato

Ki Te Ao Mārama – Statistics bringing light into our world - A small collection of Statistics NZ info about Māori and from a Māori perspective.

What’s on

The Drivers of Positive Youth Development

 Collaborative Trust's 5th Annual Research Hui,Thursday 13th and Friday 14th September 2012, Cost: $250 waged, $100 non-waged, students and scholarship students ,Venue: Avonhead Baptist Church ,102 Avonhead Road, http://www.collaborative.org.nz/

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