• Roger Sowry
Social Services, Work and Income

Kapiti Coast District Council Chambers

Ladies and Gentlemen good evening.

Id like to start tonight by briefly giving you an outline of the Social Welfare Department.

This year the Department will consume around 11 billion dollars of your taxes. That is about 33 % of the total tax take.

The vast majority of this, some 10 billion goes to welfare benefits and superannuation.

180 million goes to the running of Children, Young Persons & Their Families Service.

The Community Funding Agency spends around 110 million on voluntary agencies and the not-for-profit sector. This sector provides a range of services from anti-violence programmes to counselling services and full residential programmes for Children and Young Persons in need of care and protection.

The stand alone social policy agency and computer agency TRITEC add to the department which is all administered by corporate office.

Total staff number around 6,000 full time equivalents.

But more important than these statistics was the information outlined in the briefing papers which greeted me when I became Minister.

They show that New Zealand is facing severe social policy problems as benefit numbers continue to rise in the face of record economic growth.

In the year ending June 1996, our strong economy saw 62,000 more people employed but only 5,000 fewer on unemployment benefits, and an extra 7,000 on other benefits.

Put simply, despite 62,000 more people in the workforce, benefit numbers had risen by 2,000.

To turn these statistics around requires a determined effort from government and from communities.

The entire focus of Social Welfare and all its agencies has shifted from a hand out to a handup philosophy, and together with the Welfare to Well-Being strategy aims to break the cycles of welfare dependency.

Breaking these cycles can not be done by just one agency. We need to inform New Zealanders of the problem we face and mobilise New Zealand to combat it.

The Government launched the Welfare to Wellbeing strategy in 1994 aimed to do just that.

The concept forges partnerships between the Department and organisations across the public, private and voluntary sectors, with the aim of developing and nurturing families which raise children who are physically and socially healthy.

It aims for young people to develop into self-reliant adults, older people to retain their independence, and communities which provide a supportive environment so that everyone can maximise their potential.

The government focus on giving people a hand up not a hand out and encouraging people to move to self reliance does not mean the State is cutting its support.

I believe there will always be a need for Government to provide a safety net for those New Zealanders who need it.

What we want to see in return is people accessing the programmes and services we offer so they can improve their lives.

The old cliche of giving someone a fish, or giving them a rod to fish with, still applies today.

The public face of the Department of Social Welfare which most New Zealanders would know of are Income Support - the benefit administration wing, and the Children, Young Persons and their Families Service.

Another large part of the Department is the Community Funding Agency or CFA which funds community groups and social service providers throughout the country.

Responsibility for CFA has been delegated to my colleague the Associate Minister of Social Welfare, Dr Nick Smith.

This year alone, CFA will fund around $10.8 million to hundreds of service providers throughout New Zealand.

These individuals and organisations are making very real contributions to deliver quality social and welfare services to those most in need in our communities.

This funding provides essential services in communities like Kapiti for families in need of support, community welfare and disabilities services.

Dr Smith and I are united in our priorities for CFA for the coming parliamentary term.

We have affirmed the priorities that CFA set for 1996 but we are also interested in further supporting parenting and budgeting services.

We are also looking at longer term contracts with service providers.

We hope this will benefit both government and providers, and ultimately consumers.

Community groups would be able to plan longer term, offering consumers more stability of service, develop quality of service, and develop more solid relationships with staff.

This contrasts with shorter term contracts where groups may be planning forward only a year.

We are also looking at the whole issue of who takes responsibility for funding community groups and initiatives.

Certainly Central Government through CFA has a major role, but the community must buy into an initiative or holistic approach to an issue, for positive change to succeed.

We want community providers to look at how they are really making a difference for their target consumers.

We are convinced that more resources is not the solution.

The issue is how those resources are being spent.

Better coordination between government and providers and between providers themselves is the key.

One of the main areas for which I am responsible is the Children, Young Persons and their Families Service, or CYPFS which provides care and protection and youth justice services to children, young persons and their families. The service is operating in an environment of significant social problems.

Upon becoming Minister of Social Welfare I learned that around 30% of children now live in benefit dependent families and that 76% of these live in sole parent families.

While the total number of beneficiary children coming to the attention of CYPFS is relatively small, they are twice as likely as others to require care and protection services and more than twice as likely to require youth justice services.

Cabinet agreed last week to allocate an additional $1.3 million to purchase additional out of family care bednights. The reason behind this additional funding is that CYPFS is facing higher than forecast demand for out of family care, which is purchases through contracts with community based providers.

Out of family care is generally used in serious cases where the needs of a child or young person for safety, care and control cannot be met in less family ways.

This additional money will mean CYPFS can provide another 38,610 bed nights for youth at risk.

These bed nights will generally be provided by organisations like Barnardos, the Open Home Foundation, IHC and foster parents.

Many providers both government and locally funded, or voluntary, work together with the same families. It is essential that all these agencies work well together.

The Ministries of Social Welfare, Health and Education are already well on the way to developing a constructive interagency approach to dealing with children and youth at risk. At both senior and local agency levels.

This is being led right from the top.

From Ministers through department Chief Executives right down through agencies.

The commitment of these Chief Executives is shown through their regular meetings which purely focus on better coordination between sectors.

Cooperation and coordination when dealing with children and youth at risk is not just an issue for government.

But Government agencies can lead by example.

This is an issue for everyone. Local governments, non-government organisations, and business sectors across the country are getting involved.

Our initiative is rapidly gained momentum in communities.

Coordination issues between government and non-government agencies is nothing new, but central Government cannot provide prescriptive programmes and insist they are implemented across the country.

Our communities need local solutions targeting local needs.

In order for this to work agencies and communities must buy into the process.

This means that systems cant be pushed into communities quickly.

There has been much debate in recent times about the problem of juvenile crime and youth at risk, and an expectation that Central Government address it effectively.

While Government accepts this responsibility, local government also has a role to play, both in terms of providing local leadership and encouraging collaboration.

A good example of this working well is in Waitakere, West Auckland.

The local authority has taken the initiative in bringing together the three key government social service agencies in developing a new practice model that is designed to ensure young people at risk receive the services they are entitled to.

This has not always occurred in the past because of disagreements between agencies over which is responsible for providing resources or particular services.

The Waitakere City experience provides a blueprint for the development of a national model, or at least a model from which other communities can take a lead.

Our own region is currently looking toward the Waitakere model.

In Kapiti the Mayor and District Council recently convened a forum to identify the needs of youth at risk, the resources available to service them and the gaps.

It seems likely that this forum will lead to an ongoing arrangement that will ensure all parties that have a role to play in keeping communities safe and assisting youth at risk work more closely together and thus achieve more effective outcomes.

The leadership role adopted by the Council (or Mayor) in Kapiti provides a coordinating and networking mechanism that would be difficult for a single government agency or even a group of government agencies, working collaboratively, to achieve.

I hope that groups and individuals in our community will see the potential in this initiative and offer the council their full support.

It is your support which will see this initiative succeed.

Thank you.