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Researchers disappointed by 'disappearing data'

Child Poverty Action Group says the loss of the Ministry of Social Development's annual statistical report is a blow to researchers and makes the Government's decision making on social issues less transparent.

The annual statistical report was last published in 2012.  It contained valuable information for researchers including trends in the use of financial assistance, and the numbers receiving each type of assistance from the Unemployment Benefit to the Gold Card.  

CPAG spokesperson, Dr. Gerry Cotterell says, "The current National Government often talks about the need for transparency in decision making and in many areas argues for improving access to data to make better decisions about public policy. However it appears that the Ministry of Social Development is exempt from these exhortations to be more open."  

Dr. Cotterell says the lack of publication of important information has spread to other areas of the Ministry's work. The Ministry no longer produces its annual Social Report which provided a picture of progress towards better social outcomes for New Zealanders, using a set of statistical indicators to monitor trends across key dimensions of people's lives.  

The Ministry has also ceased publication of the New Zealand Journal of Social Policy - another useful source of information on social policy matters of interest to academics, students, the public and other government agencies. The last volume was published in 2011.  

A check of the MSD web page showcasing its publications shows that it has nothing listed beyond 2013 - no research reports or working papers. 

Dr. Gerry Cotterell says, "One can only assume the National Government does not want the broader population to know or understand the policies it is introducing in the social area - and more importantly, in many cases, the negative impacts of these policies." 

Child Poverty Action Group is calling on research organisations to continue to seek the data they need via Official Information Act requests.  "A flood of OIA requests may help the Ministry understand the importance of these reports to researchers and the wider public of New Zealand," says Dr. Cotterell.