Friday 10 August 2012

Policy Watch

The earthquake was not avoidable, but the impact on people’s lives has been avoidable. The poor will get poorer. That didn’t need to happen. Institutions doing things to people are much harder to put up with than earthquakes.

Christian Social Services meeting Christchurch,

Hiroshima Day (6 August) 2012

Home Anyone?

Anyone else notice that there seem to be way too many homeless people in this country? That the social services are bulging at the seams? That quite a few people are living in some very precarious situations? Well the latest on housing does not inspire. Aside from the TC3 people in Christchurch, and people needing social housing, there’s the Wairarapa service providers stuck for options finding creative ways to get people into the Women’s Refuge. It’s not appropriate, but desperation has us grabbing anything which might just work. There has been no emergency accommodation in Wairarapa since 1998.

Then there is the great Auckland /Northland House Shuffle. In what really could be described almost literally “re-arranging the deckchairs”, HNZ has moved low income people out of their Glen Innes homes and is moving the actual houses up to Kaitaia to help community housing providers He Korowai Trust provide desperately needed housing in the Far North.

Taking from one vulnerable and low income community to help another? The dismantling of the Glen Innes community has been a case study in how the “intangibles” of community are forgotten when Government and its agencies focus solely on the price of land and the housing “stock” to shuffle around. It must be so frustrating for the bean counters that actual people live in their housing “stock”, people with feelings, histories, relationships, school, disabilities, health needs, and community links…

It’s really time to do better on the social housing front before the United Nations tell us off. The Social Housing Unit now lives in the new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. It has $37 million to spend on Social Housing this year or $104.1 million over the next three years. The unit received 94 applications valued at $177 million this year, so only 15 projects received grants. Prioritising things can get really tricky. How does the desperate need for social housing stand next to $75 million for roading for a new war memorial and $12 million for development of the site? For a really good article on social housing generally, and in Christchurch in particular, look here

“Difficult Fiscal Environment?” – Put up the rent

Is this the way to help the most vulnerable in this country? Housing Minister Phil Heatley has appointed a small working group to make recommendations for changes to HNZ Income Related Rents and the Accommodation Supplement. Social Housing providers have been wanting access to the same income related rent policies as Housing New Zealand for a while now.

It appears that one way the Government may try to make a “level playing field” is by getting rid of Income Related Rents and moving to a “discounted market rent” along the lines of those charged by many non-government social housing providers. A NZ Herald article suggested that doing this could double the rents of some low income Housing NZ tenants. .

No More Retirement Village Double-Dips

It goes like this: theRetirement Village offers you rest home support while you are living in one of their serviced apartments. They have to refund you the portion of the service fee that covers costs already paid through the government rest home subsidy. However there is some confusion and many haven’t been.

Since 1 July 2012 all District Health Boards have been issued with guidelines to help prevent this so-called “double-dipping” by retirement villages when they are offering rest home support to people living in serviced apartments. Details are in the information to residents and guidelines to DHBs online at -

The guidelines are the result of the complaint made to the Commerce Commission by Marlborough resident Peter Bruce, unhappy about the fees his father was paying in a Blenheim retirement village three years ago.

 Aged-care skill improvement plan

Aged Care ITO Careerforce has welcomed the Industry Training Review consultation document recently released by the Ministry of Education and is planning meetings to contribute to the consultation process on 23rd August and 30th August. The workplace based qualifications that care workers earn are often their first ever qualifications and help lift their skills in working with often very vulnerable older people and people with disabilities. Comments are being invited by 12th September; find out more at the Ministry of Education website

Families changing their spots

Families look different than they used to. Families Commission researcher, Jeremy Robertson has been doing some work and come up with the following:

- Couple-only and one person households have become more common in the last 20 years.

- In 1976, 10% of children lived with one parent; by 2006 28% were living with one parent. It looks like a third of children will have lived in a sole parent family for a period of time by age 17.

- Parents are getting older with the “median age for women giving birth is now 30 years, compared with 26 years in the early 1960s and just under 25 years in the early 1970s. Fewer New Zealand women in their teens are having a child compared with the 1960s.”

- Childcare use has increased with the average weekly hours spent by children in licensed ECE settings 20.4 hours in 2011 (13.3 hours in 2000). More info is in the full report: New Zealand Families Today: A brief demographic profile

Vulnerable Children White Paper Timetable

Talking of families, expect vulnerable children to re-enter the landscape from the middle of this month. The White Paper is now due in October and its likely to feature many of the “vulnerable children” things at the centre of a whole pile of Government goals, e.g. increasing numbers in childcare, reducing rheumatic fever rates, increased childcare provisions for teen parents, higher immunisation rates, and benefit rules around staying in school or training until young people get the equivalent of NCEA level 2.

Paula Bennett (Minister of Social Development) has announced the timetable for info releases around the White Paper. It goes like this:

• 14 August - executive summary and full summary of submissions

• 14 August - around 600 full submissions from non-government and other organisations

• 14 August - transcribed voices of around 2,000 children and young people

• 12 October - White Paper for Vulnerable Children

We are grateful to UNICEF and others for their work in this area which could be behind Government’s decision to release submissions and the full summary. Info about the Green Paper and its process can be found at:

An honourable mention for poverty

Child poverty does not get much of a mention in the Government’s vulnerable children work. This may change when Professor Greg Duncan comes to visit later in November. He’s spent his career on “long-term impacts of childhood poverty on adult productivity, health and wellbeing; investigating the role of school-entry skills and behaviours on later school achievement and attainment; and exploring the effects of increasing income inequality on children’s life chances.”

Child poverty might not have featured much in the Government’s official papers, but the Ministerial Committee on Poverty is looking busy with 14 papers released on “the circumstances that trap people in poverty and provide them with real opportunities to make changes and choices.” The papers say "work is primary route out of poverty, education achievement is the platform for creating opportunity, good housing is the starting point for healthy & safe communities, supported by social services well-designed and effective to reach the most vulnerable". The Committee has met 4 times. Take a look at and see if you think they are on the right track to reduce inequality and poverty...

The Vibe

Down South, the Christchurch Rebuild Blueprint is out, with anchor projects and looks beautiful. The Methodist Mission has cooked up a few anchor projects of its own that are a little bit different. Paula Bennett has proudly announced Hawkins Construction and Fletcher Building are helping locals get jobs.

Nationally, the medal tally is looking good; even though the unemployment tally is looking not so good. The statistical info around Māori children’s health is abominable, but the communities involved in the new government community-led development scheme have sorted their plans and are ready to go.

However, things must be ok, because:

If things were tough “… there would be heavy taxes on the rich and savage salary cuts for all who use our money - politicians, councillors and senior public servants getting exorbitant salaries. There'd be bans on junkets, restrictions on consultants and curbs on expenses. Major civil works would reboot the economy and there'd be a palpable sense of urgency. … That's not happening. It's a "difficult fiscal environment" only for those at the bottom - the most vulnerable. The pain isn't being universally shared, and that's morally wrong.”

Duncan Graham (Letter To Ed)


Making a Difference Fund - Round 3 open

Start: 01 August 2012, 12:00am. Finish: 03 September 2012, 12:00am. The Making a Difference Fund supports projects that improve attitudes and behaviours toward people with disabilities.

3 Documents from the Young Foundation

The Young Foundation - Framework of Outcomes for Young People is “designed to highlight the fundamental importance of social and emotional capabilities to the achievement of all other outcomes for all young people”

The Young Foundation - A school based approach to promoting emotional wellbeing in Buckinghamshire, UK
The wellbeing and resilience paradox – an analytical tool to “bring into view, measure and compare levels of wellbeing and resilience in geographical areas such as neighbourhoods.”

Caritas Social Justice Week resource - Our Daily Bread: Putting food on the table is intended to reflect on food justice issues.

Families Commission: New Zealand Families Today: A brief demographic profile

Mental Health Foundation - A flourishing Ōtautahi

What’s on

Living wage launch - 12 – 2pm, Thursday 30 August 2012,Wesley Church, 75 Taranaki Street, Wellington, RSVP to: or 0800 864 661

Jigsaw national conference – Te Papa, 10-12 October

Partnering for Results Workshops for 2012 - designed for those beginning, actively involved in, and those managing partnerships across public, private, community and philanthropic sectors. Registration and more info

Improving Outcomes for Children and Whānau - Management and Practice Post the Green Paper -The Social Service Providers Aotearoa (SSPA) conference. Brentwood Hotel – 16 Kemp St, Kilbirnie, Wellington. Conference queries:, Ph: 027 510 1517

Other notices

Ngā Pae o te Maramatanga internships –for Māori and Indigenous students interested in pursuing a career in research. Students can apply for one of ten summer internships, with 12 projects to choose from.
Wanted: Social workers who work in faith-based organisations. Aileen Copsey is a Masters student at Massey University wanting to find out about how your personal beliefs and values influence your practice as a social worker. To help Aileen, contact her at

Last word

"You learn from what happens to you. Beijing taught me a lot of lessons and you only get a couple of opportunities at this in your life so you've got to make the most of them."

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