Wellbeing Budget 2019: summary of key areas

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Budget 2019 was announced on 30 May 2019. The Budget included several areas of funding relevant to family violence, child protection and related areas such as mental health and education.

The Government had made a pre-Budget announcement of a $320 million package for family and sexual violence (see the breakdown of the funding).

In her speech to Parliament, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this Budget was different, highlighting the focus on wellbeing versus gross domestic product (GDP) as a measure of success. Minister of Finance Grant Robertson's speech outlined the approach to the Wellbeing Budget and provided an overview of the six priorities in Budget 2019:

  • Taking mental health seriously
  • Improving child wellbeing
  • Supporting Māori and Pasifika aspirations
  • Building a productive nation
  • Transforming the economy
  • Investing in New Zealand.

All Wellbeing Budget 2019 Government announcements are available online. The Budget 2019 Policy website provides detailed information. Below are some of the key areas.

Funding for child protection and early intervention

The Government outlined a number of funding areas focused on child protection and early intervention:

  • a new intensive intervention service providing new, family and whānau intensive support workers to work with families and whānau of children most at risk of entry or re-entry into State care to support them to remain safely at home
  • $26 million over four years for non-government organisations (NGOs) who currently partnering with Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children to provide early intervention services
  • $524 million over the next four years to support Oranga Tamariki to meet new care standards and an extra 350 frontline staff
  • $70 million to meet the individual needs of children in care for items such as toys, books, laptops, sports and specialist health equipment
  • 60 extra dedicated support staff for caregivers and new specialised training for all caregivers
  • new whānau care partnerships to attract more Māori caregivers
  • up to 16 new, small community-based homes for 100 additional youth justice placements for 17-year-olds, with an extra 300 staff to work in the facilities
  • a new transition service to support 3,000 young people to prepare for and transition successfully from care and youth justice services to adulthood.

For more information, see the media release from Oranga Tamariki and the summary of Budget 2019 Key initiatives for Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children. The family and sexual violence package also included funding for Oranga Tamariki.

Funding for Ministry of Social Development (MSD) work

Other funding areas were highlighted in MSD's Budget 2019 news including nearly $1.3 billion in extra funding over the next four years across a range of areas. Some of these include:

Indexing benefits

The Improving child wellbeing Budget announcement detailed changes to benefits including plans to index main benefits to average wage increases from 1 April 2020, noting that:

"This applies the same principle currently used for NZ Super. It’s a more consistent approach and will limit the need for Governments to make single ad-hoc benefit increases in any one year, as the previous Government did."

This is part of the Government's consideration of the welfare system and was one of the recommendations in the final report of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group.

The Government had previously announced it would introduce the following changes: repealing Section 192 (formerly known as Section 70A) which imposes benefit sanctions, lifting abatement thresholds for people who work and receive benefits, and increasing the number of frontline staff by 263.

Funding related to pay equity

The Government announced $1 million to assist with the pay equity claims process. Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said:

“This includes funding for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to develop online tools and resources which will improve peoples’ understanding of the pay equity claims process, by providing guidance and data for their claims. This will help reduce disputes, improve bargaining processes and lead to enduring pay equity settlements.”

In related news, the Select Committee has submitted their final report on the Equal Pay Amendment Bill. See a brief summary of the recommendations from the NZ Law Society. The bill is expected to pass into law later this year. 

Funding for mental health 

One of the priorities in Budget 2019 was mental health, with $1.9 billion allocated to a Mental Health Package that includes:

  • New universal frontline mental health service established, expected to help 325,000 people with mild to moderate mental health and addiction needs by 2023/24
  • $200 million extra for new and existing mental health and addiction facilities
  • Expanding the nurses in schools programme to decile 5 secondary schools, reaching an extra 5,600 students
  • $128.3 million for Department of Corrections to spend on mental health and addiction services
  • $197 million to tackle homelessness through Housing First
  • Funding for Te Ara Oranga programme in Northland.

Just before the Budget was released, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would be accepting 38 of the 40 recommendations of the mental health and addiction inquiry final report. Some of the key recommendations include:

  • Significantly increase access to publicly funded mental health and addiction services for people with mild to moderate needs
  • Commit to increase choice by broadening the types of services available
  • Urgently complete the national suicide prevention strategy
  • Establish an independent commission to provide leadership and oversight of mental health and addiction
  • Repeal and replace the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992.

The Prime Minister said:

“The recommendations of He Ara Oranga are wide-ranging and comprehensive. Delivering on the Panel’s vision of a people-centred approach to mental health and addiction that meets the full range of need will be a major undertaking. Just delivering on the first recommendation around services to meet mild to moderate mental health and addiction needs will be transformational. We will need to build entirely new services, train hundreds of new staff and build new facilities across Aotearoa. All this will take significant and sustained investment. That begins with tomorrow’s Wellbeing Budget but will take years.”

The Government rejected the recommendations to set a target of 20% reduction in suicide rates and direct the State Services Commission to report on options for creating a ‘locus of responsibility’ for social wellbeing within Government. See further commentary in the media below.

Funding for Whānau Ora

Another of the six main priorities for Budget 2019 was Supporting Māori and Pasifika aspirations which included:

Other areas in this funding stream include support for te reo Māori and Pacific languages; improved health, housing, education and skills; and the Whenua Māori Programme. For more information see Te Puni Kōkiri's Tahua 2019: Wellbeing Budget 2019 Māori Development Initiatives.

Commentary

Various advocates have welcomed the budget announcements. Continuing concerns have been raised about inadequate funding for social services staffing, in particular the pay gap between Oranga Tamariki and non-government organisation social workers. See press releases from Social Service Providers Aotearoa (SSPA), Barnardos, New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS) and the Public Service Association.

For other commentary and further Government announcements see the media list below.

Related media

Wellbeing Budget 2019: How transformative is it?, Press Release: NZ Council of Christian Social Services, NZCCSS Policy Watch Special on the Coalition Government’s first Wellbeing Budget 2019, Scoop, 12.06.2019

Wellbeing Budget funds more Judges to help ease demand on District Courts, Beehive Press Release, 07.06.2019

Abuse fund boost short, lawyer says, Otago Daily Times, 07.06.2019

Wellbeing Budget 2019 cautiously welcomed by psychiatrists, Press Release: Royal Australian and NZ College of Psychiatrists, Scoop, 06.06.2019

Budget boosts Pacific-led wellbeing focus for Aotearoa, Beehive press release, 04.06.2019

Funding for Growing Up in New Zealand study, Beehive press release, 04.06.2019

Mixed reactions to NZ Budget initiatives for Pacific people, Radio NZ, 03.06.2019

Child Protection Visions - Sticks, Carrots and Care, Opinion: Ian Hyslop, Re-Imagining Social Work in Aotearoa New Zealand Blog, 01.06.2019

Where does gender equality fit into the Budget?, Newsroom, 31.05.2019

ANZASW response to the 2019 budget, Press Release: Aotearoa NZ Association of Social Workers, Scoop, 31.05.2019

Targeted funding draws wide support, Waatea News, 31.05.2019

Bold Budget Making Wellbeing the Norm: Doctors, Press Release: Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Scoop, 31.05.2019

Whānau ora offers way to achieve wellbeing agenda, Waatea News, 31.05.2019

Budget provides relief but nothing transformational for children in poverty, Child Poverty Action Group press release, 30.50.2019

Investing in New Zealand, Beehive press release, 30.05.2019

Wellbeing Budget tackles New Zealand’s long-term challenges, Beehive press release, 30.05.2019

Wellbeing Budget 2019 a good start towards transformation, Press Release: Mental Health Foundation, Scoop, 30.05.2019

Focus on vulnerable communities welcomed by Salvation Army, Press Release: Salvation Army, Scoop, 30.05.2019

$133m to break Māori re-offending and imprisonment cycle, Te Ao Māori News, 30.05.2019

A well-meaning Budget 2019 offers almost half a billion for Māori, Te Ao Māori News, 30.05.2019

Mental health workers for GP clinics - but where will they come from?, NZ Herald 30.05.2019

Lifeline Aotearoa says Wellbeing Budget could signal turn, Press Release: Lifeline Aotearoa, Scoop, 30.05.2019

Government has failed Maori across the board, Press Release: Maori Council, Scoop, 30.05.2019

Wellbeing Budget: A systemic approach to complex issues, Press Release: UNICEF NZ, Scoop, 30.05.2019

Budget 2019 for Māori: Whānau Ora to receive $80m over four years, Radio NZ, 30.05.2019

Budget 2019: What you need to know, Radio NZ, 30.05.2019

Budget 2019: Mental health and child poverty focus in first Wellbeing Budget, Stuff, 30.05.2019

Budget 2019: ‘Significant and powerful step forward’ – Children’s Commissioner, Office of the Children's Commissioner, Press Release, 30.05.2019

Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu acknowledges a significant opportunity for Whānau Ora in 2019, Waatea News, 30.05.2019

ANZASW statement on government's response to He Ara Oranga, Press Release: Aotearoa NZ Association of Social Workers, Scoop, 30.05.2019

Mental health response not transformative... yet, Newsroom, 30.05.2019

Why did the government reject suicide reduction targets? They don’t work, Opinion, The Spinoff, 30.05.2019

Foundation welcomes Government's response to He Ara Oranga, Press Release: Mental Health Foundation, Scoop, 29.05.2019

Barnardos praises Budget 2019 youth investment, Press Release: Barnardos, Scoop, 27.05.2019

Budget needs to close the community social worker pay gap, Press Release: Social Service Providers Aotearoa, Scoop, 22.05.2019

What even is a ‘Wellbeing Budget’? The Spinoff talks to Grant Robertson, The Spinoff, 13.05.2019