• Roger Sowry
Social Services, Work and Income

A stocktake of services available to families at risk under the Government's Strengthening Families initiative shows there is significant room for improved communication and coordination among the providers in our communities, says Minister of Social Welfare, Roger Sowry.

The Stengthening Families initiative, for the first time, aims to have Health, Education and Social Welfare agencies working together in a fully coordinated way to make sure children and young people most at risk are getting the help they need.

"It sounds logical but these three large social agencies together command over 50% of the total tax take, or $25.3 billion, and yet until Strengthening Families began these three agencies had not worked together in a coordinated way on such a grand scale, either at a national or local level.

"The main objective of Strengthening Families is to ensure that taxpayer funding in the health, welfare and education areas is put to a maximum use in terms of achieving the best possible results for families in need of help," says Mr Sowry.

This stocktake exercise has been useful for the Government in its ongoing assessment of the need for social services. However, Mr Sowry warns that as such an exercise has never been undertaken before in New Zealand, it would be unwise to draw categorical conclusions from it.

"The exercise has provided valuable input into Government policy initiatives and helped shape decisions for the recently announced $20 million Family Start programme and the extra $101 million to be invested in resourcing the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act.

"Strengthening Families is now beginning to deal very effectively with coordination difficulties between agencies, with local coordination committees now covering over 70% of New Zealand's population.

"The committees now have a responsibility to establish formal protocols for coordination and improved case management," Mr Sowry says.