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CPAG says new study supports vastly improved social services funding

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) welcomes the release of an independent study into the gap in State funding for New Zealand’s social service sector by Social Service Providers Aotearoa (SSPA), and supports their call for the Government to “make a serious commitment to close the funding gap in Budget 2020”.

The study by MartinJenkins found the Government has been underfunding social service providers by an estimated $630 million a year. Current funding levels provide for less than two thirds of the actual costs of the services that are being delivered.

Associate Professor Mike O’Brien, CPAG’s Social Security Spokesperson, says: “The study confirms what CPAG has already believed to be the case, from what we are hearing across the sector, of squeezed and understaffed practitioners delivering to meet the ever-present and overwhelming need.

“Social services have had inadequate funding and support for a number of years, with the previous Government failing to increase funding to reflect surging demands and service quality issues. This needs urgent remedial attention if families and children are to get the support they need.”

Low-income, vulnerable families and their children disproportionately affected by declining funding across the social sector, as they are ultimately those most in need of supportive services.

“Poverty sits at the heart of so many of the critical issues faced by families and children who are supported by social services and it is critical that providers are resourced sufficiently to work with families who face poverty and other additional issues,” says O’Brien.

“Families with additional and special needs require good quality services provided in ways that are both culturally appropriate and informed by user experiences. There is a range of non-government organisations who have already done this leg-work, and these are well-placed to provide families with the support they need, if they are appropriately resourced.

“We are hearing from Budgeting Services absolutely overwhelmed by the need; families who are struggling through no fault of their own, but as the result of systemic and entrenched poverty, are trying their level best to meet their day to day needs and fronting up more often, needing help to make their limited funds stretch. Often times they are being turned away as the providers simply cannot manage.”

The chronic underfunding of social services a New Zealand is a sad indictment of decades of neoliberal policy which has promoted individual progress over communal well-being.

CPAG is hopeful that relief is soon on its way, as the current Government has been clear in its commitment to focusing on improving well-being across Aotearoa-New Zealand. 

“Ramped up services in the social sector will be vital to achieving the desired outcomes for the Government’s new Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy,” says O’Brien.

“We hope that Budget 2020 will yield many more important investments into our social services sector, and be more focused on improving health and reducing poverty than on reducing debt as a proportion of GDP.”

“Alongside better investment into social services, increasing benefits significantly must be a priority.”