The 2019 Budget heralds a change of direction welcomed by The Salvation Army. This wellbeing Budget, with its greater socioeconomic approach, is a step on the path towards lifting New Zealanders out of poverty.
We welcome the Government’s focus on our most vulnerable communities, including those with mental health and addiction issues, children and families in challenging situations, and Māori.
However, it would have been better for the Government to forego some of its operating expenditure so it could invest more to fix the problem of chronic poverty in this country.
Every person has a right to live with dignity, able to meet the needs of their family, and indexing benefits to average wage growth will go some way to levelling the playing field for all New Zealanders.
Along with decreased abatement levels, the indexing of benefits will still fall far short of the 30 per cent increase needed to truly lift people out of poverty.
Affordable housing continues to be of utmost concern to many New Zealanders. We welcome the $149.2 million operating budget being put into transitional housing and note the $134.2 capital spend. The Salvation Army believes more spending is needed on long-term solutions to the housing crisis.
We are very pleased to see the spotlight put on mental health and addiction services. Early access to these services is key, and seeing trained staff in a variety of front-line services will make it easier for those in need to get help. We are concerned about the link to services in the community: there needs to be a robust referral system to make sure initial consultations are supported with follow-up services.
The holistic approach of the methamphetamine harm reduction programme in Northland, Te Ara Oranga, with its wrap-around care approach, is working well, and we are pleased that this initiative will get a $4m operating injection.
We are concerned to see an end put to funding for the Drug Court. This is an extremely successful initiative, and we think it should be replicated across New Zealand, not stopped.
The Government is putting a significant boost into funding for Māori services, which we welcome. We would like to see more funding for initiatives for Pasifika, who also feature highly in poverty indicators.
We are pleased to see measures put in place to work more intensively with our most at-risk families, and in the area of ongoing support for young people leaving foster care. We believe that with more support our young people can flourish.
The Salvation Army advocates a substantial increase in funding for prisoner reintegration programmes, and we agree with the whanau-centred programme that will see $98m directed towards Māori prisoners for trauma and mental health support, expanded rehabilitation services, housing transition support, dedicated employment services and increased whanau, hapū and iwi engagement. We are also glad to see spending in the area of youth justice and community-based sentencing.
Spiritual health and wellbeing is central to the lives of many New Zealanders, and impacts many of those accessing our social services.
The Salvation Army would like to see a more holistic definition of wellbeing that includes spirituality, in line with a te ao Māori framework.
Overall, we are heartened by the increased focus in this Budget on our most vulnerable citizens. However, there is a long way to go to see all New Zealanders given an equal chance to thrive in Aotearoa.
We are hopeful the Government will continue on a path of socioeconomic growth.
Issued on the Authority of Commissioner Andy Westrupp (Territorial Commander)
Salvation Army, New Zealand Fiji, Tonga & Samoa