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Maharey Address to Napier social service providers

Address to Napier social service providers

Napier Family Centre.

Tena koutou katoa. Greetings.

I am very pleased to be here with you today. It is great to see such a good representation of social service providers from the area here.

As the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, I acknowledge the vital role which you and your staff play in helping your communities to become strong, supportive places for New Zealand children and families to flourish. You are the key to ensuring that the people in your communities have the capacity to participate fully in the life of that community.

I am constantly seeing evidence of the innovation, the commitment and the resilience of communities and the organisations they develop to meet their needs. I am well informed about the work that most of you have been involved with over the last decade here in Napier. I know that each of you has your own speciality and identity but that you form a strongly integrated network which minimises the gaps in service provision for your community. I also acknowledge the contribution to your work made by the City Council through its social and economic monitoring and analysis activities.

You are especially valued for your independence and your diversity and the value which you can add through working in partnership with government to meet local needs.

The government wishes to build a stronger and better relationship with voluntary sector organisations in order to assist you in your work. We recognise that many within the community sector are facing burnout and are unhappy about funding arrangements, are overstretched and feel undervalued. There is a sense in which the relationship in the past has been characterised by mistrust and insecurity.

I know we can’t change that over night but I am pleased to report to you a number of developments which I feel are very positive, and to make some announcements today about further steps which government is taking which I hope will begin to take our relationship into a new and brighter future.

As a first step, I recently announced that the project to form a Working Group to develop an Agreement with the Voluntary Sector had been convened under the leadership of Dorothy Wilson.

This Agreement will be developed in partnership with the sector and will provide a framework to develop our relationship and in particular will establish broad principles about:

 the role and value of the community sector in general; and
 the particular roles regarding social service delivery, given that this is often the main interface between government and community.

A call for nominations for the Working Group was sent out last week. Please think seriously about who would represent you well on such a Working Group and get your nominations in.

My Department of Child Youth and Family has perhaps the major interface on behalf of government with voluntary sector social service providers. The Department this year expects to have delivered over $65 millions in funding to nearly 1200 providers throughout the country.

Child Youth and Family also purchases a substantial number of services from organisations such as your own to support the work of its statutory social workers - the bednights contracts and Youth Services Strategy contracts are examples of this.

When I became Minister I was pleased to see many positive initiatives being taken by the Department to improve its working relationship with social service providers. I strongly support the partnering philosophy which has underpinned the changes to the Contracting Group of the Department. As I see it, a partnering approach acknowledges that mutual trust and respect is essential to a successful working relationship. Early this year I had the pleasure of witnessing the signing of a Partnering Charter with the Open Home Foundation which set out the roles, processes and relationships intended to strengthen trust and respect between the parties.

I am also pleased to see the steps taken by the Contracting Group to reduce the level of compliance for many of its providers. Over 800 funding agreements will now be processed simply and quickly by a new Porirua-based team each year. As we speak, funding agreements are being posted out to providers in batches of about 200 a week by this team. Once these are accepted and returned, they will immediately be processed for payment. The goal is to have funding for the new financial year flowing without interruption, giving a little more certainty and security to providers.

I also know that there is a close working relationship between the statutory social work service, and the community providers here in Napier. I see that Les Kennedy, the Acting Area Manager is here today with us. Child Youth and Family cannot do its work without you.

But I still want to see some major changes in the way we work together. I want to see the end of the narrow risk based contractualism which grew up within government departments in the last decade. We need to find ways to ensure proper accountability for public money which does not inhibit community based providers’ freedom to innovate, to find local solutions to local problems, to work wholistically with families rather than in narrow service categories.

I want to announce today a major step towards these changes – and one which is particularly dear to my heart. As part of the Budget process for Fiscal 2001 I have established a fund of $1.6 millions to trial the devolution of funding for social services initiatives from central government to local communities.

This will include pilots to trial the devolution of both decision-making and resource distribution in up to six communities throughout New Zealand.

The Department will work with me and in partnership with the sector to develop an action plan over the next three months for the implementation of these pilots. This will first involve the selection of the pilot sites. They will be chosen to include a mix of urban, provincial and rural communities and will include at least two Maori kin-based communities.

It is expected that these communities will develop a range of approaches to decision-making, representation and allocation of funds to services. Communities will be supported in this process by local staff of the Contracting Group who will provide information about existing services and options for funding. In this work Child Youth and Family expect to work in close collaboration with local bodies and iwi, who know their own communities well.

Furthermore it is hoped that this process will involve, over time, a range of other government funders within the communities concerned – working together to develop service ‘packages” tailored to meet the needs identified by the communities themselves.

It is also my hope that we can draw major employers in communities into this partnership over time. They are uniquely well placed to understand and exercise influence over the social and economic future of their neighbours and in my view they are key partners with the state, local bodies and the voluntary sector.

This may seem a small start – I should point out that the appropriation is expected to have a full year value of up to $500,000 in each of the six pilot sites – but it is important that we get the processes and the accountability frameworks right before we go too far. I must stress that we have made no decision about which communities will participate the pilots – this is a decision to be made together, between the sector and government.

There are many examples of successful models of devolution of funding elsewhere on which we can draw. In Britain the New Deal for Communities is part of a strategy to to provide neighbourhoods with the capacity, the tools and the opportunity to define their own service needs and meet these. It is working well. Australia offers some successful models of local decision-making around employment initiatives which have been successfully transferred to this country.

However we need our own solutions to this long standing challenge to democratise and decentralise social services delivery. I encourage you to start thinking about these matters and be ready to work in partnership with Child Youth and Family to design a uniquely New Zealand approach to devolution.

I believe the coming year brings exciting opportunity for the community and voluntary sector, through the development of the Agreement and through the piloting of the devolution of funding to local communities. I am also aware that there is a need for new investment into this sector, and that this is pressing in certain service areas. We need to get our working relationship right for that investment to be effective and to hit the right spots.

I have heard repeatedly that you don’t want to see more government-specified programmes being introduced into communities which had no part in their design or delivery. These new programmes are proving to be most effective – and I have just come from Hastings where the new Family Start programme, delivered by Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, has been launched. However I agree with you that the time to return more of the power to local people has come.

Thank you for taking the time to be here today to meet with me and to hear these plans for a new future of working together. Thank you for the work you do, day in and day out, for your communities. Thank you for the commitment you show and the energy you find for making your community a better place for you and your neighbours.

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