Policy Watch 30 October 2018

“Its one thing to hear about the effects of abuse and neglect on a child. It’s another to see it manifest in a sad, angry and lost human being standing before you”.

(A quote used by Judge Jan-Marie Doogue in the 22nd Annual New Zealand Law Foundation Ethel Benjamin Commemorative Address).

Tēnā koutou and welcome to the latest Policy Watch e-letter highlighting the latest news, research and policy developments relevant to the NZCCSS mission to work for a just and compassionate society in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Coalition government has achieved its first year in political power. Improving the wellbeing of New Zealanders and their families and whānau is the end goal, and sitting underneath this is an extensive program of legislative and policy reform. Keeping up with a continual stream of submissions is certainly a mission but check out NZCCSS’ website for our latest contributions to these conversations.

A win for cross-party politics – The Child Poverty Bill, reported back to the House with unanimous support from the Social Services and Community Select Committee, and agreement from the National Party, represents an outstanding achievement to date both for the Coalition Government and for cross-party politics. Some issues are simply beyond political bickering and for these issues cross-party collaboration is the only way forward. Let’s be hopeful there will be more collaborative cross-party politics to come! Long standing child advocacy group CPAG shares our enthusiasm for collaborative politics saying achieving cross party support is a significant step forward for children and young people in Aotearoa-New Zealand.

Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy – from now until 5th December, the government will be talking to people of all ages from all over New Zealand. The first Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy will be published in 2019. The Strategy will set the direction for how to improve the wellbeing of children and young people in New Zealand.  The Child Wellbeing Unit website outlines the ways you, people you know, including the children and young people in your life, or maybe the agency you represent can have your say – via an online survey, sending a postcard to the PM or making a formal submission:

Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) update – WEAG want to know what you think about NZ’s welfare system? The advisory group is visiting 16 locations for community forums to hear your views on the future of the welfare system. Go alone and have your say and/or complete the online survey and answer 5 questions:

  1. What do you think is working with the current welfare system?
  2. What do you think is not working with the current welfare system?
  3. What do you think could be done better?
  4. What level of support do you think should be available through welfare system?
  5. What values do you think should underpin the welfare system?

NZCCSS has set out a vision for social welfare for the 21st century   that will form the basis for our comments to the WEAG. Public consultation closes on Friday 9th November 2018

Tax Working Group: Some ideas for first steps towards better taxing income on capital were a feature of the interim report of the Tax Working Group (TWG) released on 19th September . The TWG is asking for feedback by 1 November on the options as it prepares it final report, as well as the other interim findings.  Do the recommendations go far enough to help reduce inequality and tax currently un-taxed wealth gains?

Child harm measure launched – Read Oranga Tamariki’s new approach to reporting on harm experienced by tamariki in care. The approach is informed by a key report Safety of children in care: Measurement of harm report and sets out changes to what is measured and how it is measured.The Safety of Children in Care Unit was set up in March within Oranga Tamariki to lead this work. Key areas of change reflected in the new approach are:

  • The harm that will be reported on includes four types of abuse – physical, sexual, emotional and neglect.
  • Reporting will cover findings of harm for all categories of people who caused harm to children, not only caregivers.
  • Cases of harm will be reviewed in real time to enable a faster response to support continuous improvements.

New measures to protect vulnerable consumers – Minister for Commerce and Consumer Affairs Kris Faafoi has announced new measures to protect consumers from high cost lenders. Among new changes are a cost of credit cap of 100% of the principal borrowed from ‘high cost’ lenders, increased requirements around loan affordability and suitability, regulation of debt collection and tougher penalties for irresponsible lending. Nga Tangata Microfinance welcomes these measures but remains concerned that mobile truck traders are not covered in the new legislation.

Survivors of abuse in state care –  Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has delivered a National Apology to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.

In New Zealand, concern has been raised by Sonja Cooper, a lawyer representing victims of abuse in state care, that the Royal Commission into Abuse in State Care is not progressing as quickly as hoped. Sir Anand Satyanand, Chair of the Royal Commission, has delivered his Terms of Reference report to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister Tracey Martin.  Government is yet to make an announcement on the final scope and terms of reference of the Inquiry.  However, Minister Martin has released an update on progress  to date on the planning and preparatory work  to support the process of hearing evidence and supporting the survivors who will be talking to the Commission.

Social Workers update – There are signs of a sea change to how social workers are seen and valued. The often tireless and unrecognised contribution of social workers supporting family, whānau and community wellbeing, has been recognised at long last with the recent announcement Oranga Tamariki social workers have reached agreement on a pay equity settlement. NZCCSS supports this announcement but believes it is critical pay rates for NGO social workers are not left behind. says Trevor McGlinchey, Executive officer, NZ Council of Christian Social Services.

ANZASW supports Judge Doogue – ANZASW has applauded Judge Doogue’s address to the Law Foundation describing it as ”significant and courageous, touching on issues that are of long-standing concern to social workers”. NZCCSS agrees whole-heartedly with Judge Doogue’s holistic approach that seeks to “breath humanity and vibrancy into the law”. It is a powerful speech and a must read for all social justice advocates.

Independent Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction – The government has provided an extension to the date of the report back to government to 30 November.  This was deemed necessary given the scope of information received by the Inquiry Panel. 5500 submissions were received and information was gathered from 400 meetings and public forums.

Upcoming Submissions.

Review of 2014 Family Court reforms – The Independent Panel considering the 2014 family justice reforms wants to hear from people who have used the Family Court and related services. Public submissions close on 9 November 2018. Find out more.

MSD Household Incomes report – This much anticipated annual report is now out, several months later than normal due to ‘problems with child poverty data’ detailed below.  An overview and key findings is on the MSD website and a link to Hon Carmel Sepuloni’s press release is here. NZCCSS has provided some initial analysis and will comment more in the next Kete Kupu.

  • Income inequality (p.17) continues small fluctuations around a longer term trend to sit at or near the peak reached in 2011
  • The inequality measure for the UN Sustainable Development Goals  – the share of total income received by the lowest 40% continues to show no increase in the share of the lowest incomes (p.48)
  • Relative income poverty is not increasing or decreasing (p.32) – because no progress is being made to reduce inequality
  • Constant value poverty is falling slightly – this means real incomes for lowest income earners are increasing in real terms but because inequality is not decreasing, their share of the total income “pie” is not growing
  • Low income and material hardship rates for children in 2016 and 2017 are not reported – the explanation on p.52 says that large unexplained fluctuations in the figures and some evidence of sample bias means that MSD does not want to publish child poverty figures until those issues have been resolved. Stats NZ is planning to release its own Child Poverty Report in early 2019, so MSD wants to wait for this report.

These are  figures for the year ended 30 June 2017 therefore do not include the impact of any new policies introduced by the new government. They could therefore be seen as the ‘baseline’ against which progress towards reducing poverty and inequality can be measured over the coming years.

Changes to Rental Housing rules are being considered and NZCCSS and others have been busy preparing comment on the Government’s Review of the Residential Tenancies Act and the Healthy Homes Regulations. There are many changes proposed that will make a difference for people renting, especially the 160,000 children in poverty who live in rental housing. NZCCSS looks forward to working with others to support good legislation and regulation that will really help people to be able to stay longer in their rental housing and ensure that it is in good repair and healthy.  Read our comments on these reviews on our Submissions page

Regulation of Property Management is one change that is urgently needed. NZCCSS supports the open letter  signed by a group of tenant advocates and leading property management companies earlier this month. The letter to the Minister of Housing Hon Phil Twyford released on October 10th calls for reforms to require property managers to obtain qualifications and a licence in order to operate; to follow a professional code of conduct; to handle all tenancy-related funds through a trust account; and to establish an effective complaints procedure that protects complainants. This follows a report released by Anglican Advocacy in August highlighting problems with lack of regulation.

Beyond Renting: Responding to the decline in private rental housing, a review of the current perilous state of the New Zealand rental housing market. Beyond renting is a review of New Zealand’s rental housing market. The report identifies factors which the report says make it is unlikely the private rental market will be able to provide the number of houses it has in the past. However, the report also lays out options for how Government could address this situation and ensure low-income households achieve safe and secure housing.

Seniors who are champions for human rights  were the focus of celebrations for the 2018 International Day of Older Persons. In New Zealand Minister for Seniors Hon Tracey Martin named equal pay campaigner Kristine Bartlett, 2018 New Zealander of the Year, and justice reform campaigner Kim Workman, 2018 Senior of the Year, as two examples of the kind leadership and inspiration provided by older people in this country.

Spreading Our Wings raises red flags for home and community health services, said aged care workforce industry training organisation Careerforce in a report released this month .  The report was prepared by the Home and Community Health Association to help understand the emerging health and wellbeing needs of people living at home and how that translates into developing the support workforce. HCHA Chair Andrea McLeod said they are concerned about the supply of care workers as well as their training.  Like many health services, home and community support services are financially stretched. The report provides a number of recommendations to help respond to the multiple challenges.

What’s on

Ageing and Spirituality Conference on 1 November 2018 in Auckland.  This full-day event offers an in-depth programme of thought-provoking insights, presentations and perspectives by leading commentators representing a diverse range of spiritual backgrounds.

PCOMS (the Partners for Change Outcome Management System) is a unique approach to supporting people who need help to thrive. It gives people the power to set their own goals and measure their progress as well as providing organisations with data to develop and shape effective services.
In this free Community Research webinarRobyn Pope and Laurie Siegel-Woodwardwill outline the PCOMS approach and the research behind it, share their learnings and experience of implementing PCOMS within social service agencies in Aotearoa.

Policy Watch, the e-mail newsletter from the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS) endeavours to inform members on the latest policy developments, research, and events happening within the social services sector, and our faith communities. Visit http://nzccss.org.nz/ to find out more about the work of the Council and to access other publications – Kete Kupu, Vulnerability Report, Submissions, Reports.

We welcome your feedback on POLICY WATCH and other publications produced by the Council.email: admin@nzccss.org.nz

Ngā mihi nui,
Best wishes to all of you.
From all of us in the team at NZCCSS