Social services failing needy Kiwis – report

  • 15/09/2015
Paula Bennett (Simon Wong/3 News)
Paula Bennett (Simon Wong/3 News)

Health, education and welfare services are failing the most disadvantaged New Zealanders, according to a Productivity Commission report that calls for a system rethink.

The commission has released its final report on ways to make the nation's social services more effective.

The 411-page report released today found that most Kiwis interact with these services without too much trouble - through their local school or childcare centre, GP or hospital.

But for people with multiple problems like depression, drug addiction and unemployment, the system is not working.

"These people require many different services, but they find it hard to navigate their way through the current maze of government agencies and processes," commission chairman Murray Sherwin said.

They "often find government processes confusing, overly directive and unhelpful", and the system frequently treats them as passive recipients of services rather than active participants in improving their own lives," he said.

The commission called for a new approach that puts the needs of these clients at the centre of decision-making.

Specifically, the report recommends government gives more responsibility and funds to organisations close to disadvantaged clients so they can offer a package of social services tailored to the individual's need.

Mr Sherwin stressed this was not about releasing government from its responsibility for providing services.

"In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is about the government taking its responsibility as system steward seriously, and reshaping the system so that it produces better outcomes," he said.

The inquiry was launched last June to investigate the effectiveness of the government's $34b annual spend on social services, including health care, social care, education and training, employment services and community services.

Labour's social development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni was critical of the report for recommending the government pushes ahead with its community investment strategy which she said had led to persistent underfunding of NGOs.

"Continuing what we are doing isn't the answer," Ms Sepuloni says.

But State Services Minister Paula Bennett welcomed the findings, acknowledging there were weaknesses in the current system and "significant opportunities" to improve the support given to the most vulnerable New Zealanders.

"These aren't easy issues to deal with so the government will be carefully considering the commission's recommendations," she said.