Tuesday 15 October 2013

Policy Watch October 2013

“Social Security was initially a response to poverty. It heralded the desire for an inclusive society. It was thought of as liberating because what it promised was equal citizenship and shared rights. We could claim that it was an adjustment to the inequalities of the market place. But whatever the claim, it was the hallmark of a humanitarian society”.
Dame Pat Harrison

New Zealand Reflects on the Sugar Bag Years

The 75th anniversary of the Social Security Act 1938 last month inspired much reflection around the country about the history of social security in New Zealand and the social values it represented. The social backdrop to the Act was the 1930's Great Depression  which saw “mass unemployment in New Zealand Job and wage cuts left people desperate, and families and charities struggled to cope”.  Tony Simpson’s iconic book “The Sugar Bag Years” captured the oral stories of ordinary New Zealander living during this time. There are clearly some parallels with the GFC crisis but there are also some striking differences. Transport ourselves back to the 1930's and it seems we had a strong desire for social inclusion, equal citizenship and shared rights, and the public expected government to help when economic times were tough. 75 years on and our basic needs haven’t changed but we have learned to blame and exclude those who are not doing so well, while at the same time expecting far less government help. 2013 and the social climate is changing again and there are all the signs that New Zealanders are looking to recapture a moral compass to guide the way forward. Social Justice leadership is the next step and the last word for this section goes to Mike Riddell whose recent article “Without a Vision” awaits new leaders to fill a moral void.
“Ki te kahore he whakakitenga ka ngaro to iwi: Without a vision, the people perish. Without leadership, they follow their own self-rewarding schemes. Without a destination, they wander aimlessly. Without companions, they travel alone”.
For more reflections on the Social Security Act 1938 check out the September edition of Tui Motu.

Public Mood Changing on Inequality

Is it time to add reducing inequality disparities to all political (public) manifestos leading up to the next election? The outcome of a recent poll suggests it may very well be the time, as calls to leaders in our communities to do something about the large and growing inequalities of income and wealth in this country. Public concern about inequality and poverty has grown considerably over the past two years to the point that poverty and the gap between rich and poor is now identified by people in a recent poll as the most important problem facing New Zealanders, ahead of other economic issues like the economy or unemployment and job security.

Update on Inequality Related Events Around New Zealand

For more information on up-coming inequality events around New Zealand go to the Inequality webpage.

Is NZ Fair? Inequality School and Youth Group Competition

Watch out for this national competition which invites young people to ponder "Is New Zealand Fair?" The competition is open to all schools and youth groups and aims to generate discussion about inequality in New Zealand. Entries close November 22nd. Information and teaching resources are available at: www.facebook.com/isnzfair or by emailing isnzfair@gmail.com. Spread the word.

Windows on Waikato Poverty – Imbalances and Inequalities.

This new report documents the inequalities in the Waikato region & looks at some things that can be done about it.

Jonathan Boston’s Quest for the Good Society

Mike Randell would no doubt be encouraged by a recent paper Jonathan Boston gave to the Treasury “The Quest for the Good Society: Economics, Ethics and Public Policy,” This paper explores what is a good society and What, if anything, should governments do to bring it about and what should be the goals of public policy in this area?” For a copy of this paper email Jonathan Boston at jonathan.boston@vuw.ac.nz.

Kete Kupu Word Basket

The September issue of the NZCCSS newsletter Kete Kupu is now online. Some of the highlights of this September 2013 issue include:
  • Inequality Divides and Holds Us Back
  • Invest More Than Just Words - Social Housing at a Crossroads
  • Local Election 2013. Keeping Inequality, Poverty & Wellbeing on the Agenda
  • The Vulnerable Children's Bill : Did We Open the Door Wide Enough To Make A Difference
  • Job Training Cuts Hit the Vulnerable
  • Rest Homes Info Goes Online
  • Premium Charging in Rest Homes
  • Five Years After GFC - Vulnerability Report 16

The Mysteries of the Missing Data

Missing: The Social Report 2013, published by the Ministry of Social Development, and which reports on how New Zealanders are faring against a range of indicators. Last seen: 2010 and advised will not be available until late 2014 or possibly early 2015. Previous whereabouts: published annually until 2010 when absence first noted.

Missing: Labour Market Factsheets produced by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and which provides quick facts about Māori, Pacific Peoples, Females, Youth and Older People in the New Zealand Labour Market. Last seen: March 2013 Quarterly. Previous whereabouts: data published quarterly since 2007.

If you have information about these cases of missing (official) data or knowledge of any other missing data, contact Policy Watch with full information.

The Vulnerable Children Bill

A reminder submissions on the Vulnerable Children Bill to the Social Services Committee are due Wednesday 30 October 2013 Bill is available, along with regulatory impact statements.
NZCCSS’ analysis of the Bill is available here.

Food In Schools is Back on Political Agenda

Food in School is a public issue too important to go away. Debora Morris-Travers, Every Child Counts, has welcomed the introduction to Parliament of David Shearer’s ‘Education (Food in School) Bill”, which was drawn from the members last month. saying “we now have the unique situation in parliament considering two members’ bills that seek to legislate food in school”. The breakfast in school initiative was a good start to address food insecurity faced by thousands of Kiwi kids. Now let’s debate how we can best take this initiative further to improve the health and wellbeing of all out children.

Pokie Machine reform consultation:

Hard on the heels of passing the greatly watered-down Gambling Harm Reduction Bill, the Government is now consulting on regulations designed to reduce gambling harm . A consultation document includes discussion on increasing the transparency of grant-making decisions; increasing the minimum rate of return to authorised purposes; regulating local distribution of gambling proceeds; and changing the Class 4 venue payments system. The Maori Party Co-Leader Te Ururoa Flavell has cautiously welcomed the discussion and is calling on communities and organisations to submit on the proposals. Comment is due 25th October read at document on the DIA website:


There’s been a flurry of activity on housing area over recent months. Here’s a quick overview of key research, funding changes and legislation.

Homelessness is the sharp end of the inequalities that divide us. Great work to tell what is really happening on margins of the housing market has been done by University of Otago researchers. Using 2006 Census data they show that there were 34,000 people “crowding in with family or friends, staying in boarding houses, camping grounds, emergency accommodation, in cars, or on the street.”. We await with interest the results from the 2013 Census to see how much the situation has changed in the last seven years. Read the full report on the Stats NZ website.

Small progress is happening for Community Housing. Funding has been secured for the national umbrella organisation Community Housing Aotearoa to help grow the sector. Community housing providers are also heavily involved in the first of the Auckland Housing Accord developments at Weymouth. The mixture of affordable homes to buy through a variety of rent-to-buy or shared equity schemes as well rental units owned by community housing providers is one step towards meeting the huge need for housing for low and middle income families. But there is a very long way to go to meet the huge need.

Check out another good example of social housing initatives in the  recent item on new Kaumatua housing on  Maori Television.

Social Housing Reform Bill has been reported back from select committee with some “fine tuning” according to Housing Minister Nick Smith with some changes recommended. The Select Committee Report  includes two minority reports from the Labour Party and the Green Party. Those minority reports raise deep concerns about the impact the reviewable tenancies for all HNZ housing making people in vulnerable situation feel even more insecure, as well as other provisions around housing needs assessment, income related rents and powers of intervention by government in community housing governance.

More older people give support to younger people than the other way round.

On International Older Persons' Day, 1st October thanks goes to Statistics NZ for reminding us what an enormous contribution older people make!
Age Concern marked the day presenting awards to its 2013 Dignity Champions. Congratulations to the award winners, Dunedin's Jan Christie, North Shore City's Gordon Michie and Auckland's Bronwyn Groot of the BNZ.

The Government marked the occasion by doing what government’s like doing, publishing reports and papers. Minister of Senior Citizens, Hon Jo Goodhew used the day to renew the Government’s commitment to the NZ Positive Ageing Strategy when she released the publication “Older New Zealanders – healthy, independent, connected and respected".

The Minister also released an update of the Business of Ageing Project that highlights the contribution older people will make to the economic future of our country. it is a very useful counterpoint to all the language of the “burden” of our ageing society.  But as the saying goes ‘actions speak louder than words’ (or reports)! The latest action of the government to implement a payment scheme for family carers has been described by Carers NZ as "a ‘cheap and dirty’ response to a major social policy issue, and a raw deal for carers and those they support". Is this the way we want to treat a very vulnerable group of New Zealanders and their families?

After the recent public consultation on premium charging in rest homes, the sector is now waiting on a compromise follow-up deal between DHBs and the sector. This article by Rob Stock from Fairfax Business Day provides a very good overview of the current situation. Because the government sets its own price to pay for the rest home services and legislates the price for the entire sector, the system is locked into a low pay model. The legal case for pay equity and the battle for a living wage in aged care can only be fully achieved when the government agrees to pay a higher price for rest homes that can ensure higher wage rates for carers.

Showcasing Aged Care Nursing is another government initiative launched recently by the Ministry of Health. A series of videos and a booklet about working in the aged care sector have been published with the aim of encouraging people to consider careers in aged care nursing.

Discussing Retirement Income

The Retirement Commission has made a strong case for retaining a universal, flat-rate NZ Super. If you read the rationale – it’s efficient, guarantees a minimum level of income, doesn't disincentivise individual savings, fosters social cohesion - then why not apply the same rationale for a children's payment? Read the full discussion document online and comment and feedback is invited up to 4th November 2013

What’s On:

2013 Kaumatua Service Providers National Conference

The 2013 Kaumatua Service Providers National Conference is taking place in Palmerston North from 6-8th November with the theme “Ko te amorangi ki mua, Ko te hāpai ō ki muri – holding elders in high esteem with the support of our service providers.”

Tall Poppy 2013

Zeal Tall Poppy 2013 aims to bring New Zealand's top social change and innovation voices into one room for a single day of inspiration, training and critical reflection. Hear from ten experts working in youth development, health, aid, social work, social enterprise and social change.
Zeal Tall Poppy 2013 will be held on Saturday, 19 October at Zeal West, 20 Alderman Drive, Henderson, Auckland.
For more information and to register visit http://www.tallpoppies.co
Got Twitter? Follow us @ZealTallPoppy #TallPoppy2013


Children’s Commissioner’s Newsletter 2013 ‘Communities in Action : Growing Our kids
This edition examines the role communities and non-government organisations play in alleviating some of the effects of poverty on children and their families, and in turn strengthening communities.

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