Changes are good, but are they the right ones?
Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says that some recent changes to CYF, such as extending state care to 18 and possibly older are welcome moves by the Government. However there are other changes that are cause for grave concern.
First, a wider use of non-government and community organisations requires proper resourcing. Reshuffling monies masks significant reductions for many agencies and already there is clear evidence that critical agencies have had funding cuts with indications that further cuts are likely.
Second, the risk criteria the Government is using to find which ‘vulnerable children and families’ qualify for assistance is too narrow. Already there are signs that some families who desperately need support and assistance will not get the assistance they need. For example, the focus on beneficiary families as one of the key criteria means that many children and working families will not qualify for assistance, and their needs will be neglected. CPAG notes with dismay that the cuts in funding for community budgeting services may be because they are servicing people who may not fit the eligibilty criteria, i.e. those not receiving a welfare benefit.
Third, the requirements for organisations to make data available to government agencies will significantly increase the compliance costs for non-government and community agencies. Furthermore, many families worried about privacy issues will not seek assistance.
"Much is made of the claim that the changes will put vulnerable children and young people at the centre," says Associate Professor Mike O’Brien, CPAG social security spokesperson.
"The announced and suggested changes suggest that large numbers of vulnerable children will miss out - they are certainly not at the centre. Within this group are large numbers of children and their families living in poverty; it is not possible to take the claims about putting children and young people at the centre seriously when the Government refuses to acknowledge and deal with poverty and its effects on New Zealand’s children."