Budget 2020 key areas, including changes to Family Court
Tue 09 Jun 2020
Budget 2020 was announced on 14 May 2020. The Budget included areas of funding related to family violence, Family Court, care and protection of children, and social sector capacity.
The Government made a pre-Budget announcement of $183 million dollars of funding for family and sexual violence. (See the summary of initiatives from the Joint Venture for the breakdown of this funding.) The announcement also included $19.9 million for a cross-agency initiative with Police, Justice and Health to ensure victims of non-fatal strangulation can access trained medical practitioners and the forensic services necessary to gather the robust evidence required to prosecute offenders.
Further Budget 2020 announcements included an additional $22 million of funding related to family violence:
- $13 million to provide therapeutic services and treatment for children and young people who are exposed to family violence
- $8.6 million over two years to help family violence providers increase capacity to respond to increased demand for services due to the impacts of COVID-19 (see the MSD Fact Sheet on Responding to Increased Demand for Family Violence Services).
In his speech, Finance Minister Grant Robertson provided an overview of Budget 2020 highlighting three themes:
- Child poverty
- COVID-19 respond, recover and rebuild (which includes business support, infrastructure, housing, environment jobs, education and training, sector recovery and community wellbeing)
- Core services (which includes health, social sector, education, primary industries, justice sector, arts and culture, defence and foreign affairs, and transport)
"New Zealand's ability to respond strongly to COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of investing in, and maintaining, core government services that support all New Zealanders' lives and wellbeing. Accordingly, the Budget 2020 package focuses on support for public services and key infrastructure. This builds on the record investment made in the past two years, rebuilding services after a decade of underfunding. It remains critical we maintain the vital public services New Zealand needs to overcome COVID-19.
This investment will complement and support our targeted COVID-19 response, recovery and rebuilding measures. The $50 billion COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund (CRRF), established through the Budget, will be used to continue our support for households and businesses and begin the work to help support our society and economy to rebuild."
All Wellbeing Budget 2020 Government announcements are available online. The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has Budget 2020 Fact Sheets that provide brief summaries of funding related to a number of areas in the social sector.
The Budget 2020 Policy website provides detailed information. Below are some of the main announcements related to family violence.
Family Court and other legal initiatives
Justice Minister Andrew Little made budget and legislative announcements related to the Family Court. This includes $62 million under the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to start the reform of the Family Court and enable the Family Court to respond to the increased backlog from the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of this package involves the Family Court (Supporting Families in Court) Legislation Bill which was introduced on 14 May and was under urgency, receiving Royal Assent on 15 May 2020. The purpose of the legislation is to:
- "Restore the right to legal representation at the start of a case in the Family Court;
- Allow parties to those proceedings, where eligible, to access legal aid;
- Establish Family Justice Liaison Officers and produce better information resources to help parents and whānau navigate the system;
- Increase remuneration for lawyers for children to incentivise the recruitment and retention of skilled practitioners."
A second Bill is expected later this year to address further changes to the Family Court with the aim to:
- "Enhance children’s participation in proceedings that affect them;
- Ensure that children feel supported and informed as they move through the Family Court process;
- Expand lawyers’ duties in care of children proceedings."
This work is intended to address some of the recommendations identified in the government's Independent Panel examining the 2014 family justice reforms. The Justice Minister provided comments to RNZ about this work.
The Government also announced funding for community legal services, including funding to Community Law for a pro-bono clearinghouse which will match people needing legal assistance with private lawyers who are offering their services for free. For more information see the Ministry of Justice Summary of Budget 2020 Initiatives for the justice sector.
Care and protection of children
Significant funding was announced for the care and protection system. This includes $480.6 million to ensure caregivers and partners have the support they need to care for children and young people. The funding is split, with $302.7 million delivered through Oranga Tamariki and $177.9 million delivered through MSD. This includes funding to support iwi, Māori and non-government organisations (NGO) that partner with Oranga Tamariki. It also includes funding for the Royal Commission into Historical Abuse of Children in Care and Faith Based Institutions. The Oranga Tamariki Budget 2020 infographic also notes that "All NGO social service providers will get an increase in funding to cover their costs of at least 1.66% and up to 7.5%."
Funding has also been announced for
- Establishing and operating the Independent Children's Monitor which is intended to carry out independent and systemic monitoring of the Oranga Tamariki Act
- Strengthening the Office of the Children’s Commissioner
- Funding to support caregivers who care for children in and outside the state care system
Other key funding announcements
A package of $900 million to support "whānau, tamariki and all Māori" in response to COVID-19 was announced. Some of the initiatives include:
- Just under $6 million for Whānau Protect – Expanding National Home Safety under COVID-19
- $11 million for "Building Sustainable and Resilient Communities through Increasing the Capability and Capacity of Māori Organisations" focused on non-government organisations
- An additional $136 million for Whānau Ora related to "Supporting the Immediate and Near-Term Recovery of Whānau from COVID-19"
Other social sector funding announcements include:
- $36 million in grants to strengthen community groups with a focus on enhancing the wellbeing, connectedness and social cohesion of Māori, Pacific, refugee, and migrant communities
- $22 million to ensure providers can continue to deliver necessary services to support their communities in responding to and recovering from the impacts of COVID-19
- $1.92 million over the next four years to MSD funded national bodies providing general support services to continue to support community organisations.
- Funding for disability support services and innovations that empower people with disabilities
- $195 million Pacific package to support the recovery and rebuild of Pacific communities from COVID-19. For more information see the Ministry for Pacific Peoples and their booklet Wellbeing Budget 2020 Pacific Aotearoa Rebuilding Together.
Advocates have welcomed the funding increases but note that further increases will be needed to address long-term needs and close the gap in funding for NGOs. Reports from Social Service Providers Aotearoa and ComVoices in 2019 found that NGOs were experiencing increased service demands and financial pressures (before COVID-19) but the government was funding social service providers for less than two thirds of the actual cost of delivering the services that providers are contracted to deliver. Advocates have also called on the government to take further action in implementing the recommendations from the Welfare Expert Advisory Group.
See press releases from Aotearoa NZ Association of Social Workers (ANZASW), Social Service Providers Aotearoa (SSPA), Barnardos, New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS), Disability Support Network, Child Poverty Action Group, Youth Sector Rainbow Collective and the Office of the Children's Commissioner for more details.
Also see the letter to the Prime Minister, Budget Ministers and Social and Community Sector Ministers from SSPA, NZCCSS and Philanthropy NZ calling on the Government to address "... the social sector funding gap so that social service NGOs and Iwi/Māori organisations can maximise their contribution to Aotearoa’s COVID-19 recovery."
For other commentary see the media list below.
The Minister for Women announced a new fund available for groups that support women and girls. The COVID-19 Community Fund is for organisations that provide services or support to women and girls, and have an increased demand for services or a shortfall of funding due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Applications are being accepted now for grants between $5,000 and $50,000. The deadline to apply for the COVID-19 Community Fund is 15 June 2020.
Social cohesion threatened in post-Covid-19 world, Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures at University of Auckland Media Release, 08.05.2020 (also see He Oranga Hou: Social cohesion in a post-COVID world for related media and discussion papers)