Updates from Government on pay equity, mental health, Oranga Tamariki and more

Image: iStock

As the new Government reached the end of their 100-day plan, a number of announcements were made about policy changes. This includes pay equity, the mental health inquiry, funding for Oranga Tamariki and changes to government targets.

In addition, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister of Internal Affairs Tracey Martin announced the launch of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into abuse in state care.

Pay equity; monitoring sexual harassment 

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Iain Lees-Galloway, and the Minister for Women, Julie Anne Genter have announced they are reconvening the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles. The Joint Working Group will focus on:

  • "Determining the merit of a claim as a pay equity claim
  • How to select appropriate male comparators when assessing the work subject to a pay equity claim."

Federation of Māori Authorities Chairperson Traci Houpapa will facilitate the Working Group. The Group is expected to submit recommendations to Ministers by the end of February 2018.

New pay equity legislation is expected to be developed and introduced in mid-2018. Minister Lees-Galloway and Genter announced in November that the previous government’s Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) legislation would not be progressed. This legislation was introduced after the government signed the care and support workers’ $2 billion pay equity settlement.

Minister of Health Dr David Clark has announced that the Government has agreed to negotiate extending the pay equity settlement to mental health and addiction support workers. Minister Clark has confirmed that in agreement with unions and employers, the Government will extend the Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Act to include mental health and addiction support workers

Gender Equal NZ from the National Council of Women and others have welcomed the announcement.

Media has reported that Women's Minister Julie Anne Genter announced that the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment will begin collating data on complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace. For more details see the media stories below.

Mental health inquiry

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced details of the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction saying:

“The terms of reference for the Inquiry are deliberately broad. It will have a particular focus on equity of access to quality services and better outcomes, especially for Māori and other groups that we know have the poorest outcomes."

On the scope, the Terms of Reference note:

"The inquiry will need to understand and acknowledge the wider social and economic determinants of mental health and addiction (for example poverty, inadequate housing, family violence or other trauma) and cultural factors, in particular the historical and contemporary differences in outcomes for Māori, and consider the implications of these determinants and factors for the design and delivery of mental health and addiction services. Commentary on these matters is welcome to help inform the Government’s work programmes in these areas."

The inquiry has been expanded to include addiction services based on consultation feedback. It will be chaired by former Health and Disability Commissioner, Professor Ron Paterson. More information, including the terms of reference, Cabinet paper and members of the Inquiry, is available on the Department of Internal Affairs website. The Inquiry is expected to report back to the Government by the end of October 2018.

For more information and additional commentary from advocates and organisations, see the media links at the end of this story. Also listen to an interview with the Inquiry Chair Ron Paterson on Radio New Zealand.

Additional funding for Oranga Tamariki

Children’s Minister Tracey Martin announced an additional $27 million for Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children. The funding was set aside as contingency in last year's budget. It will go towards support for children and young people in care or youth justice services in the following areas:

  • "improving the availability of care placements, especially for tamariki in emergency situations or with high needs ($15.7m)
  • trialling options for transitions from care to independence for young people ($6.45m), and
  • developing a tool to assist decision making in the youth justice system ($1.25m)"

An additional $4 million has been allocated towards the ongoing development of the new operating model for Oranga Tamariki.

Oranga Tamariki has recently published two new reports. Transition from care to independence (2018) summarises findings from a formative evaluation of two existing Auckland-based transition services. Children in New Zealand Communities Survey (2017) summarises findings from a survey of 2900 people which asked questions about vulnerability and children, including who people consider responsible for the well-being of children in Aotearoa New Zealand.

New targets on child poverty, Better Public Service targets discontinued

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced new Government targets focused on reducing child poverty. She also announced the Child Poverty Reduction bill saying:

“The Bill is the framework for measuring and targeting child poverty. It sets in law four primary and six supplementary measures of poverty and material hardship. It requires the government of the day to then set targets to reduce child poverty."

“We have not included individual government targets in the Bill. We want to leave room for each government to determine their own child poverty reduction ambition. This Bill is about building consensus on behalf of children."

“We will be making our targets available in time for the public to submit on them, alongside the Bill, as part of the select committee process."

“We know targets are not enough. The Bill requires governments to develop a comprehensive child well-being strategy that keeps child poverty top of mind, and keeps the focus on improving the living standards of children."

National’s spokesperson on children Paula Bennett said the National Party supported the legislation at its first reading but wants the Better Public Service (BPS) targets to remain:

“We will support the Prime Minister’s Bill through its first reading today, but further support will be contingent on the Government supporting our Supplementary Order Papers (SOPs) which require the legislation to include Better Public Services targets."

Concerns about the BPS targets have previously been raised by Income Equality Aotearoa New Zealand Inc - Closing the Gap and the Salvation Army. For more information see previous NZFVC stories Latest Better Public Service data - increase in reported violent crime and Govt announces new Better Public Services measure on family violence.

Review of Whānau Ora

Minister for Whānau Ora Peeni Henare said he is talking with Whānau Ora commissioning agencies and others about the terms of reference for a review and who will lead the review, reported Waatea News.

More information

For background information see our previous story on the new Government's policy directions. For more information about the Government's plans, see the Prime Minister's speech, The 100 day plan and beyond: Setting the direction of the Government.

Selected media

Pay equity, monitoring sexual harassment

Pay equity settlement for mental health and addiction support workers, Beehive Press Release, 22.06.2018

Government and unions right the wrong, Press Release: New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Scoop, 22.06.2018

Pay equity settlement extended to mental health workers, Radio NZ, 22.06.2018

Government enters into pay equity talks for mental health workers, Stuff, 14.02.2018

Mental health workers to benefit from pay equity, Beehive Press Release, 14.02.2018

Workplace sexual misconduct register to be introduced, NZ Herald, 08.02.2018

Government to start tracking sexual misconduct in the workplace, Stuff, 05.02.2018

Govt to collect workplace sexual misconduct data, Radio NZ, 05.02.2018

New laws for pay equity by middle of the year, NZ Herald, 23.01.2018

Traci Houpapa to lead pay equity mahi, Waatea News, 23.01.2018

Mental health inquiry

Doing mental health differently, Newsroom, 01.02.2018

The mental health inquiry - a call to action for Pasifika, Statement from Le Va Chief Executive, Le Va website, 30.01.2018

Statement on Mental Health inquiry by Social Workers Association, Press Release: Aotearoa NZ Association of Social Workers, Scoop, 26.01.2018

Mental health inquiry a blueprint for the future, Newsroom, 24.01.2018

Child poverty should be a key focus for Inquiry, Press Release: Child Poverty Action Group, Scoop, 24.01.2018

Nurses welcome moves to close the gaps in mental health care, Press Release: New Zealand Nurses Organisation, Scoop, 24.01.2018

High hopes for mental health review, Waatea News, 24.01.2018

Govt has achieved more for mental health than National ever did - campaigner, Newshub, 24.01.2018

Mother whose son died on suicide watch welcomes mental health inquiry, Radio NZ, 24.01.2018

Nothing off table for Govt's mental health inquiry to be headed by former Health and Disability Commissioner Ron Paterson, NZ Herald, 24.01.2018

Call for changes to policy, Otago Daily Times, 24.01.2018

Mental health review to look at services and equity of access - Govt, Stuff, 23.01.2018

Mental health inquiry a unique opportunity, let’s take it,  Press Release: YesWeCareNZ, Scoop, 23.01.2018

Mental health inquiry: How will it work?, Radio NZ, 23.01.2018

Action needed, not another inquiry, Press Release: New Zealand National Party, Scoop, 23.01.2018

Maori demand voice in mental health regime, Waatea News, 14.12.2017

Additional funding for Oranga Tamariki and new reports

Children's Minister Tracey Martin says her mother was abandoned at age 2, Stuff, 01.02.2018

Faces of Innocents: How responsible do New Zealanders feel about other people's kids?, Stuff, 31.01.2018

Tracey Martin: We need to get over our anxieties about helping children, Opinion, Stuff, 31.01.2018

Moves aim to keep children out of police cells, Radio NZ, 26.01.2018

$27 million boost for Oranga Tamariki, Māori Television, 26.01.2018

New Government targets

Govt must be more ambitious with child poverty legislation, Press Release: New Zealand National Party, Scoop, 21.03.2018

Child Poverty Reduction Bill a watershed for children, Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa Press Release, 08.02.2018

Child poverty targets realistic, but income needs urgent, Child Poverty Action Group Media Release, 01.02.2018 

Child poverty reduction plan set to be unveiled today, One News, 30.01.2018

Public services targets to continue, without Govt, Press Release: New Zealand National Party, Scoop, 29.01.2018

PM: Labour to set own target system, Otago Daily Times, 23.01.2018