The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) is pleased to respond to this year’s “well-being” budget.
“The Association strongly supports the principle of producing a budget that measures its success not only in narrow economic terms but according to social, health and broader living standards metrics” ANZASW Chief Executive Lucy Sandford-Reed said.
“There are many aspects to this budget that we appreciate,“ she revealed. “As the professional body of social workers in Aotearoa, we are of course particularly interested in those decisions that will impact people who use our services, and our profession as a whole.
“We therefore welcome the new mental health package; increases in income for those entitled to welfare; programmes that prevent sexual and family violence and support survivors, including a kaupapa Māori service, ambulance services; measures aimed at reducing homelessness; more investment in Whānau Ora.
“We also very much welcome the direction of further funds to Oranga Tamariki, Ministry of Children, so that it can meet new care standards, with an increase in hundreds of frontline roles,” she continued.
“Likewise, we welcome the increase in support for Tamariki Māori through the funding of specialist roles, including Kairāranga and Iwi Family Group Conference coordinators, new Whānau Care Partnerships with iwi and Māori organisations to support tamariki, rangatahi and whānau,” the Chief Executive said.
“These moves indicate that the government is recognising the fact that Tamariki Māori, who are disproportionately represented in the care system, need Hapu and Iwi based community-based solutions alongside state support, which has been the message of many voices for decades,” she observed.
“ANZASW notes the increase in resourcing for intensive early intervention services designed to prevent uplift or re-entry into state care, accompanied by new services to support young people / rangatahi to transition from the care and youth justice system into independent living,” she said.
“We also welcome measures that will reduce financial pressures on family such as the abolition of donations for state schools in deciles 1 to 7, subsidies for Early Childhood Education and the removal of fees for NCEA and New Zealand scholarship can make all the difference in the lives of families / whānau struggling to make ends meet,” she said.
However, the Association is concerned that housing affordability, a central aspect of the cost of living crisis, and a key factor in perpetuating poverty for children / tamariki and young people / rangatahi, has not received sufficient attention.
“Housing costs are a long-standing and high-impact issue for so many New Zealanders, demonstrably contributing to deprivation for children / tamariki and young people / rangatahi, often leading to serious health consequences,” Lucy Sandford-Reed said.
“When families / whānau have to choose between heating and eating, or paying rent and going to see a doctor, even with two parents in work, and poor quality housing is actually contributing to making children / tamariki unwell and compromises their ability to succeed in education, that cycle has to be broken through concerted, long-term investment- there can be no half-measures,” she observed.
ANZASW would like to see significant investment in an expansion of social housing stock, with consideration given to a permanent affordable housing fund, as suggested by groups like Community Housing Aotearoa.
We also believe that all benefits must be indexed to the average wage in the same way as National Superannuation is, which would prevent benefit rates falling behind. From April 2020 benefit rates will be indexed to the average wage increase- which means no increase for the next 10 months. The increased earning abatement rate will make a significant difference for families reliant on benefits. It is likewise disappointing that the sanctions for not naming the father of the child are not being removed until April 2020.
“We feel that, with the economy performing relatively well, the government has missed an opportunity to be truly bold by going further in giving New Zealanders a fairer go. Nonetheless, this budget is an important move in the right direction and we salute the courage of those who have presided over what we hope will be a sea-change in how wellbeing in Aotearoa is evaluated,” Sandford-Reed concluded.