Paul Barber is a policy advisor with the NZ Council of Christian Social Services, a national network of social service organisations.
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According to researcher Garth Nowland-Foreman:
“Overall, it looks like non-profits, while crucial to New Zealand economy and society, are more precarious than they have been, for at least a decade and possibly longer.”
It is a very large sector contributing $6 billion to GDP but if you count the volunteer input of 1.2 million volunteers, it adds another $3.5 billion. Yet it would be one of the most under-reported and under-analysed as well. The sector employs more people than the construction sector, agriculture, forestry and mining, even without adding in the full-time equivalent volunteer hours. But, while the sector is growing, expenditure is growing faster than income, which means there is “dis-saving” happening, and the total time input of volunteers is dropping, even as numbers remain high.
2. The need for action against rising inequality
“This is not some tepid third way Davos fudge in which we pretend the only response to growing wealth and income inequality and disruptive technological change is world class education and training” (Wayne Swan, Australian MP).
If you like your analysis taken with a dose of ideological clarity, check out this latest number from the Australian Labor Party think tank Chifley Research Centre, “Inequality: The Facts and The Future.”
3. Searching for threads of humanity
Simon’s struggle to live independently in the community while struggling with mental health and other issues epitomises straight talking from those working at the front line of poverty and inequality in the Waikato that the Poverty Action Waikato team has shared. “Neglect and Nurture” documents experiences of communities dealing with a neglectful state while trying to build and maintain nurturing communities.
Okay, so it is not news that our population is ageing but this graph from the draft of the new Health of Older People Strategy gives some food for thought. In 2015 there were around 1.5 million people aged under 25 in our population of 4.6 million. In 20 years’ time in 2035 there will still be around 1.5 million people aged under 25 but our population will have grown by almost another million to 5.5 million. Most of those million extra people will be aged over 55 years. We really need to start having some good intergenerational conversations! You might want to add your thoughts on the consultation running until 7th September.
Researcher Dr Kate Amore is one of those who have worked tirelessly to document the full extent of severe housing deprivation (homelessness) in this country. On Wednesday she released the full details of the latest statistics from the 2013 Census showing around 41,000 people in severe housing deprivation. In the 7 years between 2006 and 2013 the rate of housing deprivation went up by nearly 15%. And that was before the prime time media discovered people living in cars.
Half of the homeless live in Auckland, not surprisingly, but other places are struggling as well, like Far North District, Opotiki, Whakatane, and Porirua (read the full report here). The government policy answer to this is actually very straight forward – inject the extra supply of housing into the places where is most needed. That means building a lot more social housing that is affordable to rent (or buy) for people on low incomes. This direct policy response would also have the great additional effect of reducing the pressure off the middle of the housing market as well.
In the midst of this housing shame, there are brilliant social services and emergency housing teams getting out there to help provide housing, find places to live and generally stand beside those needing help. Auckland's Te Puea Marae and Mangere Marae have stood up over winter and taken people in, and they are working alongside established Auckland emergency housing services like Monte Cecilia Housing Trust, The Salvation Army, Island Child, VisionWest and De Paul Housing.
Kim Workman has recently expressed his disappointment at the way justice policy over recent years is leading to increased prison numbers instead of decreasing the number of people we lock up. And more than five years after declaring our prison system a “moral and fiscal failure” is Finance Minister Bill English re-discovering alternatives that he already knows about when he described a Howard League literacy programme as “fitting within the government’s social investment approach”?
Check out what these Auckland law students think about saying sorry (warning: no Pakeha rights were harmed in the making of this video)!
9. The case of the disappearing beneficiaries
It takes a bit of detective work to find out what is happening to people once the Government has managed to get them “off the books” when people “exit” the benefit system. While Government targets of fewer people on social welfare are going down, how come food banks, budgeting services, and emergency housing services are going up?
Aren’t all these people leaving benefits going on to employment, training and lifting themselves out of poverty? Well, the Government doesn’t know because it isn’t asking this question so it takes hard working people like Victoria University Masters student Alicia Sudden to research this. She surveyed or interviewed nearly 250 people to find out what happened after the 2013 welfare reforms, what it is like on a benefit and what happens when you leave a benefit.
It turns out only 37% are actually moving into full-time paid employment, a further 17% do get into study or training, but nearly half find themselves struggling in casual employment, back on a benefit or with no source of income at all…. (Check out information from both MSD and StatsNZ that supports this analysis).
10. To finish with a bit of poetry courtesy of Sister Margaret’s from the Sisters of Mercy in Wiri, South Auckland….
State house numbers going down
In 2013, 69,000 owned by the Crown.
People sleep in garages, cars and on the floor
while MSD waiting lists continue to soar
Men, women and children out in the cold
And houses for the homeless are empty or sold.
The social housing experiment begins to kick in
Reduce the state stock and pocket the win.
A fiscal model becomes the norm
the private market will transform.