Opinion: Should the Govt have better access to the lives of the vulnerable?


Bill English made a bloody good speech yesterday.

He wants to find out more about the most vulnerable New Zealanders and their kids.

He wants to find out more so he can work out what Government programmes work and what ones don't.

Basically he wants to spend the limited money in the right places. Why spend billions on stuff that doesn't work?

Mr English is the Government's most analytical Minister and also the hardest working.

This is what we know, thanks to his speech yesterday.

Twelve-thousand children live in the most vulnerable of circumstances. That's 1 percent of all our children.

They are four times more likely to leave school with no qualifications, nine times more likely to serve a prison sentence, and six times more likely to receive benefits for more than five years before they turn 35.

They will cost the state millions over their lifetime.

As children they have been seen and cared for by CYFS, rely on beneficiary families, have a parent that has been in jail and their mother will have no formal education.

These people and their children cost the country billions of dollars over time and Mr English, quite rightly, wants to reduce that and help make their lives better.

It's the hardest job any Government will embark on. But Mr English is trying.

He's calling it 'Social Investment' and it's one of the key tools the Government has to drive those changes.

Mr English says: 'At its heart, Social Investment is about understanding what makes the most difference to people's lives, and using evidence to make do more of what works. The goal is to support people in difficult circumstances to improve their lives and become more independent.'

But that means the Government wants more and better access to data and sensitive information about these families.

This is about the Government's right to know, given the welfare involved, versus a person's right to privacy.

I support what the Government is doing here as long as it's balanced and respectful of the information it gets. Standing still is not good enough. The status quo isn't working.

But if you are fully dependent on the state and have CYFs and Corrections involved in your family and lives, then surely the Government has a right to make decisions too -- this is, after all, taxpayers money, and they are the guardians of that.