Individual client data, social investment, Whānau Ora & more - new government policy directions

Sun 12 Nov 2017

The new Government has made some announcements about policy directions related to family and whānau violence. The Speech from the Throne to ...

The new Government has made some announcements about policy directions related to family and whānau violence.

The Speech from the Throne to open Parliament highlighted priorities for the Government including:

  • Increased funding for family violence networks, including Women’s Refuge and Shakti, and community law centres
  • An independent inquiry into historical claims of abuse of children in State care 
  • A ministerial inquiry into mental health, re-establishing the Mental Health Commission and a review of mental health and addiction services 
  • Establishing targets to reduce the impact of child poverty and establishing a cross-government work programme to achieve the targets
  • Increased resources for frontline health workers, more nurses in schools and free counselling will be available for those under 25 to address youth suicide and mental health
  • Review Whānau Ora delivery
  • 1800 new police officers and investigate a volunteer rural constabulary programme

Additional information has been announced in press releases and media reports including the following.

Individual client level data and social investment

Radio NZ reported that Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni announced that the Government would not continue with the plan to collect individual client level data (ICLD) from non-government organisations (NGOs). The previous Government had announced a new requirement for social service NGOs to provide ICLD in order to receive funding. A number of organisations and the Privacy Commissioner had raised serious concerns about the approach. For more detailed background, see our previous news stories, most recently MSD releases documents related to requiring individual client level data. Social Service Providers Aotearoa (SSPA) welcomed the announcement.

Stuff reported that Ms Sepuloni confirmed the Government would also be reviewing the current social investment strategy, saying:

"We don't agree with New Zealanders being deemed potential liabilities for the state. With that negative stigma put on New Zealand citizens, with them being deemed potential risks and predictive risk modelling used to assess risk.

... I'm really interested - rather than just looking at risk factors that the former Government was - what are the resilience factors, what are the protective factors and how do we put more of a concentrated focus on that to assist with people realising their potential and being successful."

It's a different approach to social investment, but we're really excited about being able to apply our principles to a redefined, repackaged social investment approach."

Social Investment will come under Carmel Sepuloni's portfolio of Social Development, rather than having its own Minister. For more information about the previous Government's social investment approach, see our earlier news story Updates, events and resources on "social investment" approach.

Media reported that the word 'vulnerable' would be removed from the name of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki (MVCOT). However Minister for Children Tracey Martin said while she believed including the word 'vulnerable' had been a mistake, a decision has not yet been made on changing the name.

Inquiry into abuse of children in state care

In the speech opening Parliament, the Government confirmed an inquiry will be held, stating "There will be an independent inquiry into historical claims of abuse of children in State care with a view to learning lessons to ensure that policy is changed to minimise the risk of this happening in the future."

Stuff reported that Minister for Children Tracey Martin said "We have asked officials for advice on the options and best way to proceed. As part of that we will consider previous inquiries and related work, including [CLAS - the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service]."

In an interview with Waatea News, Māori Women’s Welfare League President Prue Kapua said the new Government needs to consult widely about how the Government approaches an inquiry.

Attendees of the recent South-South Institute (SSI) on Sexual Violence Against Men and Boys hosted by the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Aotearoa New Zealand will present a resolution to the Prime Minister officially calling for a Royal Commission or similar.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recently recommended that an independent inquiry be held. 

Whānau Ora review

Māori Television reported that Minister for Whānau Ora Peeni Henare expects the Government to start a review of Whānau Ora in its first 100 days. During the election campaign, Labour pledged to strengthen the oversight of Whānau Ora and provide an extra $20 million over four years to improve outcomes for whānau and families.

Māori Television also reported that Dame Tariana Turia, who established the Whānau Ora programme, said she did not intend for it to be separate from the Minister of Māori Development portfolio.

Update: For more information see an interview on Newshub with Minister for Whānau Ora Peeni Henare about developing the review process.

Pay equity legislation

The Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Iain Lees-Galloway, and the Minister for Women, Julie Anne Genter, announced that the Government would not continue progress on the current proposed pay equity legislation, the Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill introduced by the previous Government. Mr Lees-Galloway said

“The current legislation diminishes the opportunity for people to make a pay equity claim, and we were clear that if we were elected then it would be the end of the line for this Bill. We were, and it is. The Government will stop progress on the Employment (Equal Pay and Pay Equity) Bill and start work on new legislation that adheres to all the principles of the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity.”

Gender Equal NZ of the National Council of Women and E Tū welcomed the announcement. For more information, listen to a Radio NZ interview with Ms Genter.

In related news, Women's Empowerment Principles is hosting roundtables on pay equity and equal pay moderated by Dr Jackie Blue, Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner with the Human Rights Commission. 

Ms Genter is calling for faster action to address pay equity following an international report that ranked NZ ninth on the Global Gender Gap Index.

Paid parental leave

The Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill is currently being passed under urgency. This will increase paid parental leave to 22 weeks from 1 July 2018, with a further increase to 26 weeks from 1 July 2020.

Benefit sanctions

The Government plans to remove benefit sanctions on sole parents who do not identify the other parent. Radio NZ reported that Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said "The most common reason for not naming the parent was often family-violence related and so, keeping that mind, it's almost like you're doubly punishing these women and their children. So, we're not going to allow that to continue."

National Party spokesperson portfolios

Following on from the announcement of new Government Ministerial positions, the National Party has released information about changes to portfolios for shadow Ministers. Key portfolios related to family and whānau violence include: 

  • Paula Bennett will pick up spokesperson for Children and Social Investment while retaining the Women's portfolio
  • Louise Upston will pick up the Social Development portfolio, previously held by Anne Tolley
  • Amy Adams will retain the Justice portfolio
  • Chris Bishop will pick up the Police portfolio
  • Jo Hayes will pick up Whānau Ora and Associate Spokesperson for Children

See the full list of National's portfolio assignments.

Non-government organisation (NGO) Briefings to Incoming Ministers

Several NGOs have published their Briefings to Incoming Ministers. This list will be updated if more briefings are published:

Selected media

What becomes of Social Investment?, Newsroom, 05.02.2018

Mental Health review could take close to a year, Parliament committee told, Stuff, 21.12.2017

Let’s do this – better, Opinion: Brenda Pilott, National Manager, Social Service Providers Aotearoa, Community Scoop, 06.12.2017

Will the removal of benefit sanctions affect children's identity?, Stuff, 01.12.2017

Disabled must be part of state abuse inquiry, activist Robert Martin says, NZ Herald, 28.11.2017

Ngā Wāhine Mōrehu: putting women back in the state abuse conversation, The Spinoff, 25.11.2017

Carmel Sepuloni: No short, sharp fix for stigma, Newsroom, 23.11.2017

Former foster children demand Royal Commission of Inquiry, Radio NZ, 19.11.2017

Revictimisation is a real risk in a state care abuse inquiry. Here is how to avoid it, The Spinoff, 18.11.2017

Our stolen generation: a slow genocide, The Spinoff, 17.11.2017

Our stolen generation: a nonchalant wickedness, The Spinoff, 16.11.2017

Quiet tears on tattooed cheeks: State abuse survivors await apology and inquiry, Radio NZ, 16.11.2017

New Zealand PM vows to close public sector gender pay gap by 2021, Global Government Forum, 15.11.2017

Shake-up coming for bosses, staff and contractors, but devil will be in the detail, Stuff, 15.11.2017

Minister for Women Julie-Anne Genter has her eyes firmly fixed on gender pay equity legislation for the gender pay gap, One News, 14.11.2017

Govt to scrap benefit cuts for mums who don't name father, Radio NZ, 14.11.2017

Our stolen generation: a shameful legacy, The Spinoff, 14.11.2017

New Health Minister pledges change on youth suicide, Newtalk ZB, 13.11.2017

Government must not limit child abuse inquiry to state care, victim advocates and experts say, Stuff, 14.11.2017

Child rights monitoring group calls for urgent Government action to address UN concerns, Stuff, 13.11.2017

Interview: Tracey Martin, Newshub, 12.11.2017 (also see transcript)

Welfare should be viewed through 'child impact lens' - Minister, NZ Herald, 12.11.2017

Reducing child poverty: How will Jacinda Ardern do it?, NZ Herald, 12.11.2017

Why it’s an exciting time for children, Opinion: Barnardos, Scoop, 10.11.2017

'Come and talk to the whanau themselves' - call for government to change their approach to child poverty, One News, 05.11.2017

New figures on sexual abuse prompt renewed calls for inquiry, Radio NZ, 03.11.2017

More cops won't make our communities safer, Opinion: Martin Van Beynen, Stuff, 03.11.2017

No abortion changes until 'well into next year', Radio NZ, 02.11.17

Government agencies must become more accountable, Opinion: John Tamihere, Stuff, 01.11.2017

A crossroads for child welfare in Aotearoa, Newsroom, 31.10.2017

Minister for Children wanted to repeal anti-smacking legislation, Radio NZ, 30.10.2017

Image: Pixabay