The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) welcomes many of the measures contained in the government’s budget, but believes that more could have been done to tackle some of the most urgent social challenges in the country.
In particular the Association commends the decision to invest in healthcare, tackle child poverty and homelessness, while doing more to alleviate the crisis in housing. These issues have blighted Aotearoa New Zealand for a long time and all efforts to address them are to be encouraged.
These measures complement the previously-announced Families Package which ANZASW has also welcomed.
ANZASW particularly commends the move to extend free primary healthcare and prescriptions for children; more funds being directed at mental health support, including free counselling, for people under the age of 25. The latter is particularly welcome given the shockingly high rates of youth suicide in Aotearoa New Zealand.
However, we believe that more could have been done on the issue of housing. While plans to ensure widespread insulation and to increase the number of public rental homes by 1600 a year is a step in the right direction, ANZASW believes that that the government should have been more ambitious: for example, aiming to reach the figure of 2000 public rentals that the Salvation Army estimated are needed to end homelessness.
From a social work perspective, we also welcome the increase in funding that has been directed toward Oranga Tamariki and for community-based Family Violence Services. However, we regret that the core community based social services sector has received no additional funding, despite its role in providing indispensable services to many vulnerable New Zealanders.
As regards Oranga Tamariki, we would like to see the extra funds directed toward frontline social work operations; there has long been a need for a reduction in unmanageably heavy caseloads and for more investment in face to face services.
We also welcome a renewed focus on environmental issues which has seen an increase in funds for the department of conservation alongside additional support for sustainable farming.
ANZASW agrees with the government’s statement that it should be “placing the wellbeing of people at the centre of all its work” and that the focus of the budget should not only be in promoting economic growth but the social good. With this in mind, the Association hopes that this budget will be followed by further legislation and future budgets that build on the progressive measures that have already come to pass.