Policy Watch May 2019

“Having enough income to meet our needs and being treated with respect and understanding is a basic human right. As a society we cannot afford to demean the human dignity of another”

Community Social Worker Sr Margaret Martin from Wiri in South Auckland, and NZCCSS Council member.

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

The much anticipated Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s report Whakamana Tāngata: Restoring Dignity to Social Security in New Zealand has been released. This 200 page report provides a thorough assessment of the current social security system and concludes the system is no longer fit for purpose.

Accompanying the report, is a suite of ‘evidence review papers’ which underpin 42 key recommendations that include increasing main benefits by between 12% and 47%.

The report has been described as a “legacy document” that will be used as a baseline document for years to come.

Government’s response to the report, released on the same day, has generally been seen as positive in the long run but underwhelming in the short run. Only 3 of the 43 recommendations will be taken up by government from 2020:

  • 263 new frontline staff to focus on helping more people into meaningful and sustainable work
  • The Government will scrap the discriminatory sanction that cuts income to women and their children if the name of the child’s father is not declared to the Government
  • Abatement thresholds for those on benefits who work will be lifted in line with minimum wage increases.

NZCCSS calls on the Government to take up the challenge and deliver real change to our social security system by ensuring that all recommendations of the report are implemented.

We are disappointed that Minister for Social Development Hon Carmel Sepuloni has said that the upcoming Budget will not include increases the main benefit rates. The small increases to the abatement thresholds for some benefits is not a substitute for lifting actual benefit rates. The welfare system is at the heart of achieving the Government’s goals for reducing child poverty. Without significant lifts in income for whānau/families reliant on welfare support, especially those on the very lowest incomes, child poverty rates will remain high says Sr Margaret.

Community Social Services – Iwi/Māori Wānanga

NZCCSS in conjunction with Vision West is hosting a Community Social Services – Iwi / Māori Wānanga in Auckland on 22 May.

With the importance of ensuring all social services are contributing to equity for Māori this wānanga will provide an opportunity to discuss how services can work with others to achieve better results. If you are interested in coming along, register your interest today!

Wellbeing Budget 2019

It’s countdown to the delivery of the government’s first “Wellbeing Budget” on Thursday 30th May 2019.  OUT is a sole reliance on traditional fiscal measures such as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and IN is a wider set of wellbeing indicators (alongside traditional measures) to inform government decisions on policies and spending. The Treasury’s Living Standards Framework (LSF) and the LSE dashboard, drawn from the OECD, together with NZ research and consultation, provide the blueprint for Budget 2019. Given the complexity of this work it is a brave move on the part of Government, but it is also critically important to address the inherent contradiction felt by increasing numbers of ordinary Kiwi’s when told the ‘economy’ is showing stella growth, while poverty and hardship is their lived experience.

What we know so far:

The Minister of Finance Grant Robertson published the Budget Policy Statement (BPS) in December 2019 which set out the main priorities for the 2019 Budget.

  • transitioning to a sustainable and low-emissions economy;
  • boosting innovation, and social and economic opportunities in a digital age;
  • lifting Māori and Pacific incomes, skills and opportunities;
  • reducing child poverty, improving child wellbeing and addressing family violence;
  • supporting mental wellbeing, with a special focus on under 24-year-olds.

Read NZCCSS’ submission on the BPS here

CPAG Nationwide Post Budget Events 31 May 2019

Join CPAG at a post budget event near you and hear their analysis of the Government’s first “Wellbeing Budget”. Find a location and register today.

Winter Energy Payment

The Winter Energy Payment is back and now available for 22 weeks from 1 May to 1 October to seniors and families needing help to pay for heating as the months draw colder. It’s a small intervention that will reach an estimated one million low income householders (eligible beneficiaries, superannuants, veterans). Single people will receive an extra $20.46 a week ($450 for 22 weeks) and couples with dependent children will receive $31.82 a week ($700 for 22 weeks).

Benefit sanctions down

Ministry of Social Development (MSD) data produced for the March 2019 Quarter indicate positive change is happening within the culture of Work and Income service centres. The latest data covering the March 2019 quarterly identifies a substantive decline in the number of sanctions issued by Work and Income [down from 14,705 in March 2017 to 10,190 in March 2019 (-4560)].

Sanctions imposed on sole parents, over represented in low income households, is down by 56 per cent. NZCCSS has long advocated for the removal of benefit sanctions. A view strongly supported by the Child Poverty Action Group.

Hardship assistance is up – 472,217 hardship assistance payments were granted in March 2019. Up from 319, 757 hardship grants payments in March 2018 quarter.

Food continues to be the top reason for applications and the need is growing. 212,871 grants allocated in March 2019. This is up from 68,885 grants reported in March 2018 quarterly.

Emergency Housing grants are a close second. Applications climbed to17,264 grants from 11,126 in the March 2018 quarter.

These increases reflect the extent of the need in our communities for basic supports, and the organisational changes set out by both the Prime Minister and Minister Sepuloni to introduce more responsiveness to people’s needs. Positive change can start at the top!

Spotlight on our members

Offering – If you’re looking for an inspirational gift look no further than a collection of hymns sung by some of New Zealand’s iconic music artists. Each hymn has an art work to interpret each song! Find out more about the Offering and its 17 year journey. All profits go to the outstanding work of the Salvation Army.

Everyday Hero Campaign

As part of VisionWest’s “May I Help You” month, VisionWest staff are walking Coast to Coast on the 25th May 2019 to help our whānau stay warm and fed this winter. Find out how you can contribute here

Tātou tātou e!

2019 Community Networks Aotearoa and NZ Council of Christian Social Services Joint ConferenceTātou tātou e! : The value of relationships and building wellbeing is the theme of the joint conference to be held on 27th and 28th August 2019 in Wellington. The conference website is now online so check it out and book in the dates.

Oranga Tamariki Update

As part of legislative requirements under the Children, Youth Persons and Their Families Oranga Tamariki) legislation Act 2017 (CYFOT Act),Oranga Tamariki will be required to provide a range of new supports. Here’s an overview of some of the key changes which will come into force on 1 July 2019.

A more detailed overview will be included in the next edition of Kete Kupu.

National Care Standards (NCS)The Care Standards aim to raise the quality of care and outcomes for children and young people in care, and to make clear what they can expect while in care (a requirement for needs assessment, plans, support for whānau connections, and culture, belonging and identity). The regulations also set out new requirements to provide information to caregivers to support their understanding of the care expected, alongside a range of new supports and training for caregivers.

Inclusion of lower risk 17 year olds into the youth justice system – The Minister for Children, Tracey Martin, has an omnibus bill to give full effect to the CYFOT Act 2017 to ensure all of the benefits of the policy to include 17 year olds in the youth justice jurisdiction are fully realised. The Bill is currently before the Social Services and Community Committee.

New transitions service for 18-25 year olds, including the right to return to living with a caregiver until age 21. NZCCSS will update members as information from Orange Tamariki is made available.

Duties of the Chief Executive in relation to the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti). Section 7AA sets a range of duties of the chief executive to “recognise and provide a practical commitmernt to the principles of Te Tiriti. NZCCSS’ Community Social Services – Iwi / Māori Wānanga in Auckland on 22 May (noted above) will dedicate time to discuss Section 7AA.

New monitoring requirement –  The development of a new monitoring framework for monitoring services to children under the Oranga Tamariki Act 2017.  Oranga Tamariki is currently developing a new system of independent oversight this framework.

New Information sharing requirements – The CTFOT Act sets out the purpose and principles of information sharing, when agencies must supply information, restrictions of disclosure of information, and requires orange Tamariki to develop a Code for information sharing.

Outcomes Framework – Underpinning this extensive work, is the new Outcomes Framework, which Oranga Tamariki has developed. The framework sets out 5 critical areas: 1) Early intervention 2) Intensive intervention 3)Care 4)Youth justice and 5) Transition.

Update – Royal Commission into Historical Abuse in State Care and in Care of Faith-Based Institutions

Read the latest Pānui newsletter (April 2019) from the Inquiry Team. Of interest to NZCCSS members will be the section on how the Terms of reference would apply to faith institutions.  In the newsletter the Commissioners clarify the Inquiry will cover:

  • A person abused by a priest/clergy in a church setting.
  • A person abused by a priest/clergy while away on a trip (an ‘errand’, a day trip or overnight trip, for example).
  • A person abused by a priest/clergy while paying a visit to them in their home

NZCCSS is aware of concerns the scope of the abuse scenarios is too narrow and clarification is currently being sought.

Interest Rate Cap Needed to Stop Loan Sharks

FinCap is the national organisation representing budgeting services around the country and they are calling on the Government to include a cap on interest rates in the new credit laws that are coming into Parliament . This is something NZCCSS supports strongly and signing the petition is one way you can help.
Submissions on the legislation are due on 15th June

Have Your Say on Better Later Life Strategy

Minister for Seniors, Hon Tracey Martin has released the draft strategy, Better Later Life – He Oranga Kaumātua 2019 to 2034.  It is the result of the consultations in 2018  about the new strategy for New Zealand’s ageing population. The Minister says it has been designed to:

  • highlight the value of our ageing population
  • focus on those aged 65+ but also consider the next generation of older people as they need to be planning now
  • create opportunities for everyone to participate, contribute and be valued as they age
  • drive actions to ensure all New Zealanders recognise their potential
  • highlight the importance of everyone working together to achieve the vision.

Public comment on the draft closes on Monday 3 June 2019.

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