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Come Clean On The Welfare Reforms, Mr Maharey

ACT Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman is demanding a full explanation of proposed welfare restructuring plans from Social Services Minister Steve Maharey this week.

“Rumours of welfare service reorganisation have been swirling around Parliament in recent weeks. Then we get the bizarre situation where the Prime Minister – through the media – says the Government is considering creation of a welfare “super” ministry. Is this any way for a Government to be formulating policy and informing the public and its own staff of major changes?

“As the Minister responsible, Mr Maharey owes the taxpayer and his own welfare services staff a full explanation of what is planned – as soon as possible. About 7000 staff would be affected by any move to combine the Department of Work and Income, Child, Youth and Family Services and the Ministry of Social Policy as suggested by Ms Clark in her ‘on-the-hoof’ policy announcement through the media. I’m particularly concerned about what would become of CYFS, its employees, and the efforts to fight our appalling child abuse problem.

“This is a department that has been renamed, restructured, reorganised, revitalised and revolutionised so many times that it is in crisis. About 4000 reported at-risk child cases haven’t been investigated. Staff morale has plummeted. Record numbers of staff have been leaving. The department is defending 16 personal grievance claims, many because of stress, from former staff. In his report on CYFS recently, retired judge Mick Brown pointed to the constant change within the department as a reason for the poor morale and recommended there should be no more change.

“Why then more change for a department that has almost been changed to death? This would contradict what Mr Maharey said when in opposition in 1998 that “we will stick with this organisation and make it work”. Contradiction has become this Minister’s middle name.

“In addition, the Hunn report on the then WINZ suggested that it too had experienced enough change and that consolidation was what was needed to give staff the certainty they deserve. Just because the changes on the surface appear solely designed to avoid the Government facing a possible pay-out for getting rid of DWI head Christine Rankin is no reason to disrupt organisations badly in need of some stability.

“The fact that the Prime Minister and not the Minister responsible is announcing such major welfare policy changes is surprising. I’m not sure what this says about the confidence she has in her Minister to manage his portfolio. Mr Maharey has the opportunity to show he has not lost his grip by giving the New Zealand public this week a comprehensive explanation and justification of what his Government is planning in terms of welfare reorganisation,” Dr Newman said.

ENDS


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