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Govt. Responds To The WINZ Inquiry

Government Response to the Ministerial Inquiry into the Department of Work and Income

An increased focus on employment and greater regional flexibility mark a new beginning for the Department of Work and Income, says Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey.

“Increased local flexibility is expected to bring a significant change in the Department’s approach and culture,” he said.

Mr Maharey was delivering the Government response to the Department-specific aspects of the Report of the Ministerial Inquiry into the Department of Work and Income (the Hunn Report). State Services Minister Trevor Mallard will release the Government's response to the public service-wide issues raised in the report next month.

Mr Maharey said the Department of Work and Income purchase agreement and the Chief Executive’s performance agreement would together reflect the Government’s expectations of the Department, in particular to:

 Strengthen external relationship management
 Increase employment focus
 Increase local flexibility of the Regional Commissioners
 Have systems, processes and structures in place both regionally and nationally to support the regional flexibility and decision making.

“This is the start of a fundamental change for the Department.

“A line is drawn under the first 18 months of the Department of Work and Income. Now we move forward.

“The increased regional employment focus, moving the Community Employment function to the Department of Labour, improved services to Mäori and Pacific people, and a more responsive organisational and public service culture add up to a significant new start.

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"The Department of Work and Income, in consultation with the State Services Commissioner, will want to consider how the internal configuration of the Department can best contribute to the increased employment focus the Government is expecting.

“These changes, together with the Government’s employment policy and planned changes to the delivery of social assistance, provide the Department of Work and Income with the focus it needs to deliver employment and social services results for the Government.

“The Chief Executive and senior managers of the Department are working constructively with other agencies to the direction I have set for the Department of Work and Income,” Steve Maharey said.

Key aspects of the Government response are:

Department of Work and Income Culture
The Department already has or will:

 Improve collaboration and consultation with key government agencies
 Commit to informing, involving and consulting with clients, stakeholders, local government, iwi, advocacy groups and other key community groups, both nationally and regionally
 Modify corporate and business language
 Continue the recently introduced probity programme to ensure that staff act prudently in spending taxpayer money, and that sound and frugal economic management is maintained
 The Controller and Auditor General will be asked to include a property audit in the next audit of DWI and include this information with his audit report for 2000
 Revise performance indicators to ensure consistency with the purchase agreement and the publish performance indicators and results on the Department’s website
 To ease workload pressures, investigate the feasibility of a nation-wide rollout of the Application Line pilot that allows clients to register and apply for entitlement through an 0800 number. Moving the bulk of the application process to the call centre allows case managers to spend more time with clients.
 Give Regional Commissioners immediate authority to move to specialised case management of work tested and non-work tested client groups if they consider that this will relieve staff workload. This will be subject to consultation with the PSA
 Improve ways for frontline managers to be informed of and discuss changes
 Improve the capability of staff to work effectively with clients and targeted groups.
 Provide better opportunities for staff to have their say.


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Change Management
The Department is developing an integrated change management plan to be presented to the Ministers of State Services and Social Services for their consideration by mid-July.

A multi-faceted approach to monitoring the changes is proposed, including:

 Strengthened collaboration through a Chief Executive’s forum involving the Chief Executive of the Department of Work and Income, the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Policy (MSP), and the Secretary of Labour and their senior teams for information sharing and progress reporting.

 In respect of the Department’s Mäori Strategy, the Chief Executive of the Department of Work and Income will work with the Department of Labour (DoL) and Te Puni Kokiri (TPK) on monitoring progress of the agreed strategy.

 For implementation of the benefit advocacy group changes, the Chief Executive will work with the Chief Executive of MSP.

 An existing senior officials group will continue work on increasing the employment focus of the Department. This may be expanded to include officials from TPK and the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs.

 The Ministers of State Services and Social Services and Employment will receive regular reports on progress, and after one year the Minister of Social Services and Employment will review progress made in implementing the two year plan to change the culture and approach of the Department and report back to the Government.

Employment Focus
To change from the criticised ‘one size fits all approach’ of the Department, it is moving away from centrally controlled and determined service delivery to regional flexibility that more clearly provides for the needs of individual clients within local labour markets.

Changes expected to follow are:

 Services better tailored to local needs (e.g. work brokers will be able to adopt a regional focus rather than a site specific one where this suits the needs of the region better)
 Specialisation of services to better meet needs of clients (e.g. greater understanding and knowledge of the needs of particular client groups)
 More appropriate service to client groups (e.g. provision of services by Mäori for Mäori, whanau case management)


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 Partnerships with communities that maximise the collaboration/co-ordination between the department, other agencies and local community groups
 Increased community involvement in the direction and priorities of each region

“I expect that local flexibility will increase quickly to meet local needs,” said Mr Maharey.

As a first step, Department of Work and Income Regional Commissioners will have to introduce a range of alternate employment approaches from 30 November this year, as part of wider changes to service delivery in the future.

Role and Placement of Community Employment
The Community Employment function of the Department is to transfer to the Department of Labour to support the Government’s community employment development strategy. Community employment promotes local solutions to local problems, and fosters partnerships between communities, business and local and central government.

To do this Community Employment will develop and foster relationships across the full range of community and development organisations which address the social and economic issues confronting communities.

Beneficiary Advocacy Service Developments
A number of changes that significantly impact on the way Department of Work and Income relates to its clients were announced on May 25. These followed a series of meetings with representatives of beneficiary advocacy groups who identified a number of concerns with the Department’s organisational culture and practices.

The changes affect areas including benefit crime and debt recovery, the Benefit Review Committee process, and other issues such as procedural fairness and entitlement assessment.

“The proposals are consistent with the new direction and culture that the Government requires of the Department of Work and Income,” said Mr Maharey.

Services to Mäori and Pacific job seekers
To address the disparity gaps of Mäori and Pacific job seekers, the Department will:
 Work with DoL and TPK to develop a strategy for Mäori that is aimed at improving employment prospects for this group.

A key focus will be solutions to be provided by Mäori for Mäori, and which are supported by capacity building initiatives. Particular emphasis will be placed on greater consultation with Mäori and involvement of Mäori in the work of the Department. The Department is also already working with the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs to address the disparity gaps for Pacific people.
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Possibilities under consideration include:
 a specific "demonstration region" focusing on achieving improvements in Mäori employment
 a specific "demonstration region" focusing on achieving improvements in Pacific employment
 testing alternative forms of case management within Department of Work and Income designed to deliver services in a more appropriate manner to Mäori and Pacific job seekers and to focus greater case management resources on the most disadvantaged job seekers.
 improving the capacity of Department of Work and Income staff to work with Mäori and Pacific job seekers, beginning with an examination of current staff training programmes
 testing the contracting out of the full range of Department of Work and Income employment services to Mäori and Pacific providers.

The Budget last week also delivered a package of measures designed to assist Mäori and Pacific people’s employment.

Department of Work and Income Capacity and Management
To strengthen operational policy and evaluation capacity and capability, the Department of Work and Income proposes to establish a General Manager role with responsibility for labour market strategies.

Also, reconfiguration of the Department’s management structure should follow progression of the key strategies to:
 strengthen external relationship management
 increase employment focus, including its operational policy and evaluation capacity
 increase the flexibility of Regional Commissioners to determine local service delivery solutions
 ensure the appropriate systems, processes and structures are in place both in the regions and national office to support regional flexibility and decision making.

The Chief Executive of Department of Work and Income will consult with the State Services Commissioner to resolve the final nature of the management configuration within the department.

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