Expert Group established to provide independent advice on welfare system improvements

  • Hon Carmel Sepuloni
Social Development

Minister for Social Development, Hon Carmel Sepuloni, has today announced the formation of an expert advisory group to support the overhaul of the welfare system.

“This Government is committed to overhauling the welfare system to ensure it is accessible and fair for all New Zealanders,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

“An overhaul of the welfare system was initiated as part of our confidence and supply agreement with The Green Party and is unreservedly supported by all of Government.

“The Welfare Expert Advisory Group has been asked to undertake a broad-ranging review of the welfare system. It will deliver advice to the Government on ways to ensure people have an adequate income and standard of living, are treated with respect, can live in dignity, and are able to participate meaningfully in their communities.

“Areas that the Welfare Expert Advisory Group has been asked to focus on range from considering the overall purpose of the system, through to specific recommendations on the current obligations and sanctions regime.

“I’m very pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Cindy Kiro today as Chair of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group. Her relentless focus on building on the potential in people reflects the principles of this government,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

“The welfare system touches the lives of New Zealanders from all walks of life. I am pleased that the Welfare Expert Advisory Group members themselves come from a diverse range of backgrounds and experience, including but not limited to Māori, Pacific, disabled, and young people.

“Every member will bring their own unique skills and expertise – including experience of advocacy in the welfare system, economics, health, business and research and analysis. It’s also important to me that the Group includes members with lived experience of the welfare system.

“The Welfare Expert Advisory Group will deliver its advice to the Government in February 2019. I am looking forward to receiving the Group’s recommendations.”

Under-Secretary Jan Logie said the Greens welcome the establishment of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group.

"This Government knows there are immediate changes we need to make to our welfare system, which we are working on. But we also need to take a long term view and ensure the whole system is working effectively and compassionately.

“Too many New Zealanders are stigmatised and trapped in poverty because of our welfare system. The advisory group will help us ensure every New Zealander can flourish.”

Minister Tracey Martin said the working group would be a great support to the much needed overhaul of the welfare system.

“Having a range of experienced perspectives outside of government contributing to the Government’s vision in this sector is crucial to getting it right and delivering better outcomes for New Zealanders.”

Media contact: Amanda Snow 021 282 0078


Editor’s Note – Welfare Expert Advisory Group Member Biographies

Professor Cynthia (Cindy) Kiro (Ngapuhi, Ngati Kahu, Ngati Hine) is a well-known New Zealand academic. Having focussed on Education for the past five years, Professor Kiro also worked in Public Health and Children’s Advocacy for many years. She has extensive experience working in roles to improve outcomes for the New Zealand population. Professor Cindy Kiro is Director of the Starpath Project and also ‘Te Tumu’ – responsible for Māori/indigenous education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland, where she has worked for the last three years.

Professor Cindy Kiro has held many senior roles in the health sector, academia and community organisations - straddling social work, public health and education. As New Zealand’s 4th Children’s Commissioner, Cindy Kiro established the Taskforce for Action on Family Violence, the largest ever response to family violence that included 22 government department Chief Executives, Chief District Court Judge, NZ Police Commissioner, Principal Family Court Judge, Chief Families Commissioner, five NGO Chief Executives, and Māori and Pacific Island representatives.

Professor Innes Asher is a Paediatrician, with vast experience of children and families interacting with the welfare system, and the broader determinants of well-being of children and families. Professor Asher has nearly three decades of global experience in health and wellbeing, as the Chair of the Global Asthma Network and the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood. She is currently employed as a Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Auckland. Professor Asher is a committee member and health spokesperson for the Child Poverty Action Group.

Kay Brereton is an experienced advocate for people within the welfare system. She is currently employed as a senior advocate at the Beneficiaries and Unwaged Workers Trust. Ms Brereton is the Co-Convenor of the National Beneficiary Advocates Consultative Group, a group of experts on welfare issues which regularly consults with MSD. She has extensive experience working directly with Work and Income clients assisting them to access their full and correct benefit entitlement, and to access their statutory review and appeal rights.

Dr Huhana Hickey (Ngāti Tahinga, Tainui, Ngai Tai) has a long standing interest in the human rights of people from marginal backgrounds and the consequences of discrimination and social oppression. She is a scholar of disabilities research and legal theory, and is noted for the breadth of her published cross-disciplinary research. Dr Hickey currently sits on the NZ Human Rights Review Tribunal and is the Chair of the Auckland Council Disability Strategic Advisory Panel. As the recipient of a main benefit, Dr Hickey brings lived experience of the welfare system.

Professor Tracey McIntosh is the Head of Department for Sociology at the University of Auckland and has conducted extensive research in the field of sociology and Māori and Pacific studies. Professor McIntosh advocates for sociology that supports and reflects issues that concern Māori communities. Professor McIntosh also served as the co-chair of the Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty.

Dr Ganesh Nana is currently the Chief Economist at BERL, having joined the company in 1998 as a Senior Economist. He has over 30 years of experience in the field of economics including business consulting, conference presentations, research, tutoring and lecturing in New Zealand and the UK. Dr Nana’s work is often related to the Māori economy, regional New Zealand and its economic development, and education and workforce training plans and programmes.

Phil O’Reilly has high-level experience working at the interface of government, business and communities, and has developed long-term working relationships at all levels in the business community as a previous Chief Executive of BusinessNZ. He is uniquely placed as a New Zealander at the leading edge of the global debate on issues such as the future of work, inequality, and productivity. In New Zealand he chaired the Green Growth Advisory Group and his membership of public and private advisory boards and committee appointments has spanned academia, research and development, business, labour and social development, and manufacturing and trade. He is currently Managing Director at Iron Duke Partners.

Robert Reid has over 40 years’ experience in trade unions and in community employment development.  Much of Robert’s work has been with disadvantaged groups and has included work with Maori, Pacific Peoples and migrant communities. Mr Reid is currently Honorary President of FIRST Union, and served as the General Secretary of FIRST Union for 9 years until November 2017. He was also part of the Beneficiary Advocates Advisory Group established by Hon Steve Maharey as Minister of Social Development from 1999 to 2002.

Trevor McGlinchey is currently the Executive Officer for the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services. In 1986 Trevor started the Te Mahi o Waitaki Trust in Oamaru, this kaupapa Māori Trust developed and operated numerous social enterprises and community initiatives. In his community roles Trevor chairs Moeraki Ltd, a marae based charitable company, and Te Ana Whakairo Ltd a social enterprise based on Māori Tourism. He is also a Trustee of Ngā Tangata Microfinance Trust.

Latayvia Tualasea Tautai is a young Pacific leader from Auckland. In 2016, she was the head girl at Saint Dominic’s College in Henderson and the winner of the National Council of Women’s Year 13 School Girl Speech Competition. She is currently a second-year university student, studying on a University of Auckland Pacific Excellence scholarship towards conjoint Law and Arts Degrees, majoring in Pacific Studies and Political Studies. She has lived experience of the welfare system, growing up in a household with her mother receiving main benefits.  Miss Tautai is an active volunteer in the Auckland region – volunteering at organisations including St Vincent De Paul, Mt Eden Prison, Auckland City Mission, and James Liston Hostel. She is the youth leader on the PACIFICA Inc West Auckland Executive.

Charles Waldegrave is the founder of the Family Centre 1979 and the Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit 1991. He has held several roles at the Family Centre and is currently the Family Centre’s co-director of Re:Source and the Research Leader at the Social Policy Research Unit. Mr. Waldegrave co-leads the New Zealand Poverty Measurement Project. He has led or jointly led research, evaluation, service and teaching contracts with multiple government agencies. He has written many research articles and specialises in social policy regarding youth, ageing people, and poverty, among others.