Welfare reform as the politics of redistribution - Part Three

The third of a three part series by Donna Wynd on welfare reform as the politics of redistribution.

Part 1: Changes to New Zealand’s social assistance and child poverty

Part 2: The politics of welfare reform

Looking ahead - how communities can respond

Welfare continues to be a moving feast, and more changes are on the way. In short, the government wants to spend less money and has signalled it will continue to move people off welfare although it’s not clear where they will go. It is also probable that more services will be moved to the private sector, that there will be less money available for them, and that the money available will be more tightly targeted. The Prime Minister has been explicit that he does not think giving more money to beneficiary families will help, and has offered nothing to alleviate the poverty of our poorest kids.

So where do we go from here? This model – Te Pae Mahutonga (The constellation of stars known as the Southern Cross) – comes from Mason Durie.  Clayton Wikaira who does health promotion in schools and works with Maori and Pacific communities utilises this framework to challenge thinking when planning and implementing health promotion activities. This framework supports his work in any context of health/education settings. The principles outlined here could work for any community group that is trying to find a way forward.

  • Mauriora – access to tea o Maori, inner strength or secure cultural identity;
  • Waiora –environmental protection; the relationship between people and their environment;
  • Toiora – healthy lifestyles;
  • Te Oranga – participation in society; having a voice in how goods and services people need are made available to them;
  • Te Mana Whakahaere – autonomy; people’s participation in and control over the things that affect their lives;
  • Nga Manakura – leadership; not just leadership from government and state agencies, but from communities and whanau: “No single group has sufficient expertise to encompass the range of skills and linkages necessary for effecting change.”

    In practical terms, Te Mana Whakahaere means thinking about what the communities priorities are and how they will meet them. This stands in contrast to welfare reforms that are very much a statement of what someone else thinks is good for you.

    With respect to Nga Manukura or leadership, health and wellbeing need leadership not just from government agencies but from communities identifying their own needs and working with others to meet them.  Our leaders for change are in our whanau, neighbourhoods and communities.

    Change takes time, and a great deal of work is needed to change outcomes for children in a political environment that is hostile to sole parents. Social media can be really helpful to identify other groups working for change and link up with. It’s important that groups start to work together and to work with others to change outcomes: as Clayton says – you are the revolution.

    It is only by working together and speaking out that we will start to roll back the tide of increasing income inequality in Aotearoa New Zealand. As the targets of so much reform, it is more important than ever that sole parents get their voices heard.