Creating a Social System that Encourages and Rewards

  • Roger Sowry
Social Services, Work and Income


Prime Minister, President, delegates, Michelle and her children are a great success story. You have seen and heard the impact this programme is having on their lives.

By working with Claire, her family support worker, Michelle and her children's lives have changed.

They are on a positive path with a bright future. As Michelle said, Claire can not DO things for her but is a guide, a support person, a friend - someone that Michelle has not had in her life before.

We have taken this programme and we are expanding it to three pilots sites around New Zealand.

The pilot project called Family Start, will operate in West Auckland, Whangarei, Rotorua and part of Christchurch city, and work with 850 families.

In these cities, a family support worker like Claire will coordinate help around families with new born children, bringing services to families when they need them.

No longer leaving the family isolated but walking alongside them, ensuring that they have access to the full range of help in their community. It is a joint commitment being led by the Ministers of Health, Education and Welfare, and is specifically designed to reach families with the greatest difficulties.

By working intensively alongside the family, the support worker can give the family the skills and tools they need to make their family stronger and give their children a great start in life.

The Family Start pilots come under a visionary approach that we call Strengthening Families, again a joint initiative between the three ministers.

For the first time, the Ministries of Health, Education and Social Welfare are working together in a fully coordinated way to make sure the most at risk children and young people are getting the right help. It sounds logical, but as you have seen from the video these three large social agencies together consume 65% of all the tax we pay, yet until Strengthening Families began they had not worked together in a coordinated way either at a national or local level.

It is all about working to break cycles of disadvantage. We believe that every child in New Zealand deserves to grow up in a strong family with positive role models, to grow up in a healthy environment and that every child deserves to start school ready to learn.

It would be irresponsible to aim for anything less.

The National Party has built a solid reputation as sound managers of the economy. We are now gaining a reputation as social policy innovators.

There has been huge emphasis over the past six months on radical welfare policy reform.

Reform that puts individual and family responsibilities alongside rights. We have introduced more obligations and responsibilities for people receiving assistance from the State.

The most radical shift that we've have made in welfare philosophy is to look at what people can do, rather than what they can not.

We are asking sole parents to look for work from the time their youngest child turns six, and matching that obligation with a substantial package of child care support, particularly focusing on after school programmes. We are also asking individuals and families to take more responsibility for their actions, which has been debated up and down the nation through the proposed code of social and family responsibility.

Our reform agenda has seen the logical merger of Income Support and the Employment Service into one Department of Work and Income.

Delegates, I believe that only National can ensure New Zealand continues to have an outward looking entrepreneurial society. Yet budding entrepreneurs will only come from strong families who instil in their children the will to succeed and an unshakeable belief in themselves. It is the responsibility of our party to ensure that those standing at the bottom of the ladder are given a hand up so they can make the climb themselves.

Contrast us with Labour which despite eight years in opposition is yet to offer one single credible or affordable social policy idea.

Desperate to fill their social policy void they have resorted to catching the latest wave, which last year happened to be Tony Blair's coat tails before he started taking a hard line on welfare, and now their latest crush is on a third way dreamed up by American idealogue Robert Reich.

Is this the same Labour Party that howls in protest at the severity of a programme from Wisconsin for single parents?

Delegates, National offers a vision for New Zealanders.

We are working to create an environment where every child is given the chance to grow up to realise their full potential: to have a dream and know they can fulfil it.

We will build a society of entrepreneurs through an education system and a health system that meets the ever changing needs of today's families. And through a welfare system that empowers people and encourages participation rather than trapping and isolating them.

With the best possible start in life, our children will reach their full potential.

That is why Family Start is so important.

It is a programme that I believe will make a huge difference to families like Michelle's.

After all, our children are our future.