'It was a failure': Government to review NGO data sharing

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni.
Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni. Photo credit: Newshub.

The Government is putting an end to what it's labelled a "data-for-funding regime" in the social services sector.

Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni said on Monday afternoon there will be a review of requirements for NGOs (non-governmental organisations) funded by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to share client information with the governmental department.

"Our Government's not going to be undertaking a data-for-funding regime like the previous Government did," Ms Sepuloni said. 

"It was a failure, and it caused a lot of distrust publically, so it's important we have a discussion... with all of those affected."

At the same time as reviewing data-sharing requirements, the Government will consult on a new approach to social well-being.

"We not only want to develop an approach to social wellbeing that treats people with dignity and respect, but also give people confidence that data will be used constructively to support New Zealanders," Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni said on Monday afternoon.

"It's important the public trusts how government uses data, and this Government is very aware that agencies need to work hard to rebuild public trust and confidence in data use."

The National Government introduced a requirement for government-funded NGOs to share information about their clients in order "to keep vulnerable children and young people safe from harm" in November 2016.

It was part of the National Government's social investment strategy, which aimed to identify at-risk children early in order to achieve better long-term outcomes. Key to that strategy was measuring the use and effectiveness of services, with an eye to Government investing in those proven to work.

But the expectation to share data with a government department was met with distrust from some NGOs, especially those dealing with issues like family violence, who worried about the impact data-sharing could have on their clients.

Previously, NGOs had held the information and the MSD did not expect to share it.

In 2017, the Privacy Commissioner launched an inquiry into the collection of individual data.

The Commissioner found the way the policy was implemented "undermined" trust between NGOs and their clients.

"This may deter some of the most in need from accessing necessary help because of the NGO's inability to keep details private, even from MSD," Commissioner John Edwards found.


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