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Alternative Welfare Working Group starts tomorrow

Alternative Welfare Working Group launches tomorrow

Welfare Justice – the Alternative Welfare Working Group’ is being launched at 10.00am Thursday 8 July at the Catholic Centre, Hill St, Wellington.

The group is being established by Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, the Social Justice Commission of the Anglican Church and the Beneficiary Advocacy Federation of New Zealand (BAFNZ).

The three organisations see an urgent need for a community-wide, informed debate on welfare in light of the Government’s current moves on welfare reform.

Caritas Director Michael Smith says the coalition of benefit advocates, and Catholic and Anglican social justice agencies is commissioning an alternative report from a group which includes respected academics as well as representatives of beneficiary groups, people with disabilities and churches. Like the government-appointed Welfare Working Group, it will be reporting back in December.

The Alternative Welfare Working Group members will be:
• Mike O’Brien (Chair), Associate Professor of social policy and social work, Massey University
• Paul Dalziel, Professor of economics, AERU, Lincoln University
• Māmari Stephens, Lecturer in welfare law, Victoria University of Wellington
• Sue Bradford, community and welfare activist, PhD student in public policy
• Wendi Wicks, National policy researcher, Disabled Persons’ Assembly
• Bishop Muru Walters, Pihopa o Te Upoko o Te Ika and Chair of the Social Justice Commission of the Anglican Church

Auckland University associate professor of economics Susan St John and Massey University associate professor of public health Cindy Kiro have also agreed to act as formal advisors to the Alternative Welfare Working Group. The group intends to invite submissions and comments, and to hold opportunities for public comment and discussion.

BAFNZ representative Kay Brereton said the group grew from conversations at the government-sponsored Welfare Working Group Forum held in Wellington last month. She said participants at the forum expressed concern that their voices were not being heard, and wanted to be sure that all options are considered in any future changes to the welfare system.

Anglican Social Justice Commissioner Rev Dr Anthony Dancer said that while the Alternative Welfare Working Group will start from the same terms of reference as the government group, they will be given the freedom to expand the scope of its activities. “It is important that any review of welfare proposes outcomes that are just and ensure the best long term outcomes for whānau and tamariki, and builds towards a society in which all can participate.”

Opportunities to engage in discussion and debate about the future of our welfare system will be notified on the group’s website at www.alternativewelfareworkinggroup.org.nz (live from 6.00am Thursday 8 July)

Mike O’Brien, Paul Dalziel, Māmari Stephens, Sue Bradford and Wendi Wicks will be present at the launch, along with representatives of the three Commissioning groups.

Biographies of members:
Welfare Justice – the Alternative Welfare Working Group

Mike O'Brien is an Associate Professor in social policy and social work at Massey University's Albany campus. He has undertaken research and written extensively on a range of income support and social development issues, with a particular focus on child poverty, changes in social security and social policy and on social services. He chairs a community development project, Te Waipuna Puawai, in Glen Innes and is a Board member at the Auckland City Mission. He is a member of the Management group of Child Poverty Action Group, and of the poverty and exclusion policy group at the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services. He is a life member of the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers and in 2009 was Astrid Lindgren Guest Professor in child studies at Vaxjo University, Sweden. He is married to Colleen and they have two children and two grandchildren.

Paul Dalziel is Professor of Economics at the AERU research centre at Lincoln University. His work focuses on New Zealand economic and social policy, which has produced more than 180 academic publications since 1984, including five books. In recent years Paul’s research has concentrated on regional economic development and he is currently the President of the Australia and New Zealand Regional Science Association International (ANZRSAI), the first New Zealander to hold this position. Paul is a member of the FRST-funded research programme on education employment linkages (www.eel.org.nz), and is responsible for the research objective concentrating on employer-led channels that help young people make good education employment linkages as they move from school to work.

Māmari Stephens is a lecturer with the Faculty of Law at Victoria University of Wellington. Her staff profile is at http://www.victoria.ac.nz/law/staff/StephensM.aspx

Wendi Wicks articulates the issues of disabled people at Disabled Persons’ Assembly, where she is the national policy researcher. She believes that disabled people themselves are the experts in disability, and are the most authoritative leaders for design and delivery of solutions for disabled people; and that this principle applies for many other marginalized groups.

Sue Bradford is an Auckland-based community activist. She was a Green MP from 1999 – 2009, with responsibility for social services, employment, mental health, housing, economic development and children’s issues. Prior to that, she worked for 16 years 1983 – 1999 with unemployed workers’ and beneficiaries’ groups in Auckland and nationally, and played a key role in establishing the three Auckland Peoples Centres. She is currently working on a PhD in public policy with Marilyn Waring at AUT.

Bishop Muru Walters is Pihopa o Te Upoko o Te Ika and Chair of the Social Justice Commission of the Anglican Church: “I grew up during the last stages of the depression in a Maori community that shared openly its resources of food and problems as a community to survive. We never starved because we shared the food from our farms, gardens and fruit trees, and from the sea nearby, a plentiful supply of fish and shellfish. We gave our surplus to the Towns and Cities.

“Our relatives were given to fight and die in overseas wars for God for King and for country. Our churches provided the spiritual support we needed to deal with our suffering, our gratitude and our celebrations of life as new people. Our schools maintained a minimum educational standard and our parents sent us away to gain an advanced education to meet their expectations and hopes. I reluctantly went to a teachers college, and specialized in art. I became part of a special selected group of teachers selected to put the creativity back into primary and secondary education.

“Training in art freed us from conformity which could not be contained by human barriers. Many of us changed careers, with many to being fulltime artists; some to an academic teaching at Universities; a creator of a new way of teaching Maori language; redesigning of a museum, and many others. I chose to be a servant of the church.”


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