Budget Must Make Families The Key Priority
Putting families first must be the key priority of the 2001 Budget says Hon Peter Dunne, leader United Future.
“We need a budget built around family needs and aspirations that allows them to look positively to the future. If the Government has any foresight or vision about what is good for New Zealand they will built their plans around sensible, pro-family policies.
“United Future is calling for a Budget which provides credible financial incentives for families balanced with fiscal responsibility and sensible social spending with particular attention to the areas of health, tertiary education funding and encouragement for business innovation and the knowledge economy,” says Mr Dunne.
He says it is crucial that the Budget has an overall vision, which has been sadly lacking in recent years. “This Government lacks a unified vision for where the Government wants to take New Zealand over the next few years. There are a few initiatives here and there, but nothing that provides a unity of direction.
“United Future is absolutely certain about our vision for New Zealand. We will stand up strongly for a country that puts families first. Our policies will aim to build strong families from which we can develop strong communities and a strong country,” says Mr Dunne.
He says United Future has developed some key policy planks which build our vision of strong families that include giving tax relief to families, providing genuine encouragement to the voluntary sector through encouraging them to contract for service delivery, appointment of a Commission for the Family and much needed financial support to the early childhood and special education sectors, tertiary education and a legislative framework to protect at-risk families.
“We will not only state our belief in early intervention - we will actually resource initiatives in this area - and establish monitoring systems that will ensure our investment in these areas are delivering the right results. 2/
“In pursuing our vision ofa family friendly society through our programme of policies we will encourage conditions for wealth creation to be underlining our priorities. We will examine the business tax rate with a view to lowering it, as fiscal conditions allow to ensure incentives to innovation, excellence and ultimately wealth creation are achieved,” says Mr Dunne.
BUDGET 2001: UNITED FUTURE’S
KEY POLICY INITIATIVES
Income Splitting for Parents
United Future will provide family households the opportunity to have an extra sum of money in their pockets through a system of income splitting.
We believe families are too often penalised when incomes are treated singularly. There should be the opportunity for incomes to be treated in a way which does not penalise families simply because there is more than one income coming into the household. Children are too often penalised when this does happen, hitting parents hard and unfairly when they are striving to provide for their families, often against the odds.
Commissioner for the Family
A top priority for United Future is the establishment of a Commission for the Family, to ensure government policies and programmes promote the best interests of families through; encouraging family input into policy development; monitoring the effect of policies on families; advocating corrective strategies to improve family prospects; promoting awareness of the family focus; providing advice to government on these issues and advocating directly for families through responding to complaints from the public and providing appropriate recommendations.
The Commission for the Family’s operating brief will be to promote stronger communities and a better country through a combination of advocacy, education, policy advice and legislative power.
Involving the Voluntary Sector
United Future aims to build strong families through a well-funded and resourced public sector alongside closer involvement with the voluntary sector.
They have a huge role to play not only because of their ability to reach a wider section of the community, but also in providing expert delivery of services. There are many instances where the voluntary sector can provide services and support to the community but are hindered in doing so because of lack of resources or bureaucratic barriers.
United Future will remove these barriers and encourage voluntary agencies with a good record of delivery to contract for and provide services in their area of expertise. We will also provide a community volunteer tax rebate to ensure there is an additional incentive for agencies to become more involved.
Better Resourcing of Government Social Agencies
United Future is committed to the role, agencies such as the Children and Young Persons’ service play in promoting family interests. The professional social workers, caregivers and administrators in this agency deserve better financial support. We will develop a strategy that fairly funds them to be able to perform their role of detection, education, monitoring and intervention more effectively. We will develop a more attractive career structure for social workers to retain their expertise and experience in the sector.
With the rising cases of abuse and reporting of such, we will recognise the role professional people can play in the strategy to educate about care of our most valuable future resource - our children - and ensure that prevention, care and early intervention are the norm rather than picking up the pieces.
United Future strongly supports the new, expanded role for the Commissioner of Children and the extra resourcing available to that Office.
The Ministry of Youth Affairs will be required to work more closely with the Child, Youth and Family Department and the Commissioner for the Family, especially in critical areas like youth suicide prevention.
Changing the Approach to Tertiary Funding
United Future recognises there is a crisis in the tertiary sector with an appalling lack of funding threatening the excellence we have come to expect from our public institutions. We have a three pronged strategy to restore confidence to the tertiary providers and keep costs down for students and their families.
- Increase core funding of tertiary institutions to at least 80 per cent of course costs with indicative triennial funding and support government initiatives to provide extra investment in IT and innovative scientific areas.
- Abolish parental income testing for student allowances and release the burden on parents who can use spare funds to support their children’s’ fees or providing them with computers or other more tangible support
- Limit interest on student loan repayments to movements in the CPI only with no interest repayments for specified knowledge/innovation subjects.
By this approach we can reduce the burden on families and ensure access to tertiary education is not based on an ability to pay but rather an ability to do.
United Future is committed to a policy of early intervention across all social portfolios. Not only does it make financial sense, but also more importantly it prevents heartache and anguish such as family dislocation, high rates of youth suicide, health problems, educational failure and crime.
Our policies in the area of special education and support for youth offenders and their families will assist in addressing these issues.
A critical success factor will be the ability of government and non-government agencies and we will require agencies to work together to achieve positive outcomes. The days of agencies blaming each other or people falling through the cracks will not be tolerated any longer.