• Peter Gresham
Social Welfare

Politicians need to recognise the directions, and achievements of Social Welfare's Welfare to Well-being strategies, before openly criticising the welfare system, Social Welfare Minister Hon. Peter Gresham said today.

Mr Gresham says recent statements by Labour MP Mike Moore that people are without basic living skills, and that an underclass of society has been created, imply that welfare dependency issues are being ignored.

Mr Gresham says since 1994 the Department of Social Welfare has given high priority to developing its strategic policy and planning capacity, and these initiatives have been promoted to inform and mobilise the entire New Zealand community.

"The term 'welfare' has been devalued over recent years, and is commonly linked to connotations of dependency and family dysfunction," said Mr Gresham.

"Well-being, on the other hand has connotations of capability, self reliance, coping families and individuals making a positive contribution to their communities.

"In the strategic policy area the Department has completed major planning exercises looking ahead ten years.

"These are focused on achieving positive outcomes for income support and social services clients.

"Long term strategies on encouraging older people to stay independent, and encouraging communities to mobilise their citizens to become self reliant, are being developed.

"There is also a realisation that the operational units that make up the Department of Social Welfare, are in fact key parts of a larger picture. "To achieve real progress on a range of pressing social problems, these services must work with one another and with key external interface agencies.

"From Welfare to Well-being links in strongly with a wider Government strategy called 'Strengthening Families'. This aims to ensure that central government agencies are better coordinated to deliver services to families in need of help.

"The combination of all the strategies with their emphasis on strengthening the role of families in raising children and young people, assisting individuals towards self reliance, informing and mobilising communities, and participation by older people, provide the guiding framework that will enable achievement of goals vital to the future health and well-being of New Zealand's society and economy.'

"Welfare to Well-being has generated momentum, and in the past three years communities under the leadership of Mayors throughout New Zealand, have initiated a number of highly innovative local projects, aimed at strengthening families and getting beneficiaries back into the workforce.'

"Progress in breaking the cycles of dependency will not come from one agency, rather complementary strategies are needed across all sectors.

"Unless the key participants are comfortable with and committed to the goals and strategies, we will not make rapid progress on issues that require urgent attention.

"When speaking out in criticism of the welfare system, Mike Moore and others could have been better informed concerning the directions and activities being taken under Welfare to Well-being, particularly if they had bothered to attend any of the presentations held throughout the country during the past three years.

"Next year's 'Beyond Dependency' conference, which is about helping people develop and realise their goals of independence and active contribution to society, will give Mike Moore another opportunity to familiarise himself with those programmes and initiatives that work best," said Mr Gresham.

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