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Budget an important first step for meaningful change

Wellington, 30 May 2019 – Political grandstanding and mudslinging aside, and wherever you sit in the conversation on how innovative the Wellbeing Budget is, there’s little doubt that cross-agency allocations for issues like climate change, family violence, homelessness, child wellbeing, reducing Māori offending and addressing mental health are essential.

$455 million for frontline mental health services, $320 million to try to address family violence, $197 million to help find homes for the homeless, $98 million to break the cycle of Māori reoffending – these are all significant announcements in their own right. But let’s also put these into perspective. The Budget commits upwards of $400 billion of government expenditure over four years. These new initiatives represent a very small proportion of that total spend.

Deloitte Partner David Lovatt says it’s clear that when allocating a little money across a lot of spending areas that it doesn’t go far.

“So what is a government to do if it wants to have a disproportionate impact on a few key priorities?” he asks.

“This is where the wellbeing approach really shines. Compelling agencies to work together by funding them in ways that reward collaboration, measuring the impacts they are having, and then ultimately holding them publically accountable are precursors to be able to achieve progress on these perennial issues,” says Mr Lovatt.

“One can argue to what degree this approach is ‘new’. But one can’t argue that we can achieve meaningful change without doing things differently,” he says.

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Ultimately, the important test for this Budget’s wellbeing focus will be how investments like these do not just raise the average wellbeing of New Zealanders but also decrease the gaps that exist between those who are doing well, and those who are not.

“The distribution of wellbeing is important and there are inequities that need to be addressed in order to build a fair future for all Kiwis,” says Mr Lovatt.

“There is certainly much to applaud in the Wellbeing Budget, especially from a social sector perspective. The priority of the wellbeing of children, whānau and communities must now be delivered on - and while that’s going to be a task as challenging as it ever was, the money will certainly help.”

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