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$11m To Improve Social Well-Being

11 December 2003

$11m to improve social well-being

Three significant research programmes that aim to improve the social well-being of New Zealanders will receive $11m of investment from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology over the next five years.

The programmes, which will focus on supporting youth, improving well-being amongst older people and addressing literacy issues, competed successfully against a pool of 18 high quality social research proposals.

The Foundation's Group Manager of Portfolio Management, Dr John Smart, says the funded programmes stood out due to the researchers' good connections with appropriate social agencies and their ability to make a real difference for New Zealand society.

"These researchers have ongoing working relationships and collaboration with government agencies and relevant community groups that are essential to enable responsive social work to be undertaken.

"This investment represents a boost of funds for social research in New Zealand and it will allow the research community to develop a solid base of research to cope with future needs."

The majority of the funding for this investment round was from new Social Research funds announced in the 2002 Parliamentary Budget process.

"We received a number of excellent proposals - with overbidding at five times the amount of available funding. So, obviously, the process was very competitive," says John Smart.

The three new programmes bring the Foundation's total investment in social research to around $7.6m per annum. A total of 17 other programmes are currently underway, including research into sustainable housing in disadvantaged communities, poverty in New Zealand and a study on immigrant families.

Details of the three new programmes are as follows:

The University of Waikato will receive $4m over five years to study well-being and ageing. The University of Waikato programme is a joint effort between the University's Population studies Centre and the Family Centre Social Policy Unit. The researchers will work in alignment with the Government's Positive Ageing Strategy to improve the participation of older people in the community while balancing their needs with those of younger and future generations.

They will look at identifying transitions to older age, how those transitions affect the elderly and their relatives and resulting resource implications for the wider community.

The programme will pay particular attention to the implications of ageing among the Màori and Pacific populations and support systems available to the elderly.

A project by Victoria University, through Victoria Link Ltd, will receive nearly $4m over five years to study connectedness in youth.

The project, which aims to help youth have positive experiences to become healthy, productive adults, will look at how various relationships support youth in negotiating the challenges of adolescence. The researchers will focus on young peoples' connectedness to: communities and wider society; families and whanau; and schools. They will do this by following three groups of youth starting at ages 10, 12, and 14, for four years, measuring outcomes such as confidence, academic performance, behaviour, and psychological well-being, incorporating Maori perspectives and indicators at all phases. The researchers will provide snapshots of New Zealand youth each year, and more importantly analyse the causal links across time among potentially protective factors and positive outcomes.

A Massey University study that will focus on the issue of low literacy levels amongst working age New Zealanders will receive $3m over five years.

The International Adult Literacy Survey of 1996 (OECD, 1997) indicated that 160,000 working age New Zealanders have low attainment of literacy.

The new study aims to create deep insights into this low attainment of adult literacy and to develop solutions for participants, practitioners and policy-makers to maximise the benefits of this country's growing investment in adult literacy.

The study will be driven by a group of prominent Wanganui community stakeholders, who approached the researchers for support in addressing their concerns about adult literacy and employment. While focusing on Wanganui in the first instance, the proposed study can be replicated elsewhere in order to create powerful diagnostic and remedial means to create outcomes valuable for all New Zealanders.


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