New report criticises Govt targets as ineffective

  • 17/02/2016

The Salvation Army has released its latest State of the Nation report today, and it says while there have been improvements in some social areas, it's sometimes just because of targets being changed rather than actual improvement.

The report is titled 'Moving Targets' -- referring to both the need to re-evaluate targets as time passes, to acknowledge process, but also criticising how some Government agencies may be altering targets to make the results look better.

"Targets are crucial for achieving meaningful social progress," says report author Alan Johnson. "As a country, we need targets that are aspirational and courageous if we are to tackle issues like child poverty and the current housing crisis."

In the report, the Salvation Army looks into New Zealand's social and economic conditions, the social progress our children are making, rates of crime and punishment, housing, social hazards and work and incomes.

The Salvation Army says New Zealand needs to change its approach to children's wellbeing if we're to continue making progress -- there's been a drop in teenage pregnancy rates, infant mortality rates, and youth offending, but there's still a serious problem with child poverty and abuse of children, both physical and sexual.

"The nation still does not take the damage caused by child poverty and homelessness seriously enough," Mr Johnson says.

Snapshot of the report:

Where we're improving:

Where things are getting worse:

The Green Party was appalled at the fact while targets are being reached, there's no sure-fire way of knowing if child abuse was actually falling in the country.

In the manner Child, Youth and Family (CYF) currently reports abuse, there's no firm way of detecting changes in background levels of abuse and neglect.

"New Zealanders will be horrified to learn that CYF is 'disregarding' child abuse notifications possibly in order to make its numbers look better for ministers," says Metiria Turei, Green Party co-leader.

"The most vulnerable children in New Zealand need CYF's focus to be on protecting them, not on meeting ministers' targets."

For people and their families, rising house and rent prices are having a devastating effect. It's especially apparent in Auckland, where the price of rent is quickly outstripping the rise in wages and salaries.

Nationwide, it takes an average wage earner eight years to buy a median-priced house. In Auckland, it's up to 13 years.

In the past year, there's also been a drop in pass rates for University Entrance.

While for offending, Maori incarceration remains proportionately high, seven times that of non-Maori. The Salvation Army says a rise in reoffending rates is a serious concern.

But while there are a number of negatives, Mr Johnson says a lot of the progress is thanks to beneficial economic growth. If it falters, he says, there's a serious risk there will be a reversal in the social progress made.

"We don't yet appear to have a set of social policies to sustain this progress through an economic downturn," Mr Johnson says.

State of the Nation 2016 report