Policy Watch 15 November 2018

Today paves the way for us to confront a dark chapter of our national history by acknowledging what happened to people in state care, and in the care of faith-based institutions, and to learn the lessons for the future” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

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.

For this edition of Policy Watch we begin with news of a significant announcement for survivors of abuse in faith based-institutions. The government has agreed to expand the scope of the Terms of Reference to include both state-based and faith-based institutions and has renamed the inquiry The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-Based Institutions Order 2018 – to reflect this decision.

This issue is deeply felt by individuals, families, whānau, hapu and iwi at the heart of this Inquiry. The extended scope of the Inquiry reflects strong advocacy by survivors and many church organisations alike.

The President of the NZ Catholic Bishops Conference, Patrick Dunn, said “The church reaffirmed its support and desire to learn from this national undertaking which it was confident would contribute positively to the strengthening and safeguarding of its families, communities and society”.

The Anglican Archbishop Philip Richardson said “Our primary concern is for the needs of those whose lives have been impacted by abuse, and we are conscious that abuse has been perpetrated by agencies across our society, including the Church and its agencies… justice must not only be done, but also be seen to be done”.

For more information, refer to the Chair of the Royal Inquiry Sir Anand Satyanand’s latest video on the Inquiry website. A key point made by Sir Satyanand is that the Inquiry will be underpinned by the Treaty of Waitangi and will be inclusive of all those who have been overrepresented in care.

Summary of updates and next steps:

  • 4 new Commissioners will work alongside Sir Satyanand:

Ali’imuamua Sandra Alofivae, MNZM, of South Auckland, lawyer, former Families Commissioner, and Pacific community leader,

Dr Andrew Erueti, of Auckland, lawyer and senior lecturer at the University of Auckland Law School,

Paul Gibson, of Wellington, disability adviser, advocate, and community leader, and former Human Rights (Disability Rights) Commissioner, and

Her Honour Judge Coral Shaw, of Te Awamutu, former lawyer, District Court Judge, Employment Court Judge, and Judge of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal:

  • The Chair will work together with the Commissioners and key stakeholders to decide how the inquiry will run.
  • Support services will be put in place so that survivors are safe before, during and after sharing their accounts.
  • The Inquiry will launch in early 2019.
  • The duration of the Commission has been extended to four years to reflect the wider scope.
  • The time frame is 1950 to 1999 but commissioners have discretion to hear experiences before or after that time.

The inclusion of faith-based institutions is not without concern particularly for some Māori who believe their experience of abused could be watered down due to the extended scope of the inquiry, and that having only one Māori on the Inquiry is a problem given the over representation of Māori children in state care. This is a complex enquiry and it is important those who were overrepresented in care are satisfied with the process and outcome.

Other news

ComVoice Sector Survey 2018 – We hear a lot about what’s going on in the public sector but what’s happening in the community sector? The ComVoice Sector Survey 2018 is out and ComVoice Chair Nicola Sutton wants to find out what has changed in the past two years. How are community organisations faring and what might this mean for the people of New Zealand?” The Survey is one important tool to provide data to inform our understanding and to draw on when advocacy is needed.  The survey takes 10-13 minutes to complete and closes on 19 November (5pm).

Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) update – Community forums have now finished and submissions to WEAG have closed. Read NZCCSS’ submission here.

Welfare for wellbeing – A new crowdsourced story-based report from ActionStation and Child Poverty Action Group makes recommendations to government on what needs to change so all children and whānau flourish. 267 people contributed their perspectives, insights and experiences of the welfare system through a 17-question online survey hosted by ActionStation. The survey findings show an overwhelming trend of negative experiences with Work and Income and a desperate lack of income.

Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy – 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. Submissions close 5th December 2018.

He orange mo Aotearoa: Māori wellbeing for all – Read Tamarapa Lloyd’s paper on Nga tohu tautoko (pathways to success). Lloyd argues targeted customer-led approach works best for Māori, views strongly the Puao te Ata tu report from 1986 as still applying today, and warns culture bias is inherent in computer coding that affects AI, self-learning algorithms and robotic process automation, and more. This is a valuable piece of work and a must read for all those working in the public and community sector.

Human bias in computer algorithms and programmes – The issue of human bias in algorithms has also been picked up in a joint report by the Government Chief Data Stewart, Liz MacPherson, and the Government Chief Digital Officer, Paul James. Algorithm Assessment Report is a cross-government review of how government uses algorithms to improve the lives of New Zealanders. The report states “..There are often already present in human decision-making, are unwittingly incorporated into computer programmes by those  who create them..”. Given the extent to which big data is being collected and applied to decision- making, human bias is an emerging issue which needs to be actively managed by the public sector to support government’s priority to improve societal wellbeing. NZCCSS is keeping an eye on this emerging issues.