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Social investment is the new Prime Minister’s signature policy and represents an internationally unique way of thinking about, designing and implementing social policy, says NZIER

Social investment is the new Prime Minister’s signature policy and represents an internationally unique way of thinking about, designing and implementing social policy, says NZIER

By Peter Wilson and Derek Gill*

[See the full Working Paper, here.]

The Prime Minister, in his first press conference, signalled his commitment to continuing to drive the government’s ‘social investment approach’. The new Deputy Prime Minister is also strongly associated with this new and evolving approach to social spending.

Critics claim that the government has a hidden agenda to cut government spending on social policy.1 The Treasury’s recent long-term fiscal projections2 suggest the opposite – under some scenarios, increased spending now on well-designed programmes would reduce forward spending liabilities by up to 5% of GDP in 2060.3

So, what exactly is the social investment approach?

It is notable that ‘social investment’ has been advocated at various times by parties across the political spectrum. What is also clear is that social investment can mean very different things to different people. In continental Europe, for example, it is linked with income redistribution, greater social inclusion and addressing chronic unemployment, especially via greater public expenditure on human capital formation (i.e. education and skills training); while in the UK it is used to describe funding social enterprises that use business models to achieve social purposes.

NZIER is partnering with Victoria University’s Institute of Governance and Policy Studies (IGPS) to explore the New Zealand version of social investment. The first fruit of that collaboration, a foundation paper investigating the dimensions of social investment will be available shortly.

Social investment, Kiwi-style, represents an internationally unique way of thinking about, designing and implementing social policy – or at least certain kinds of social policy.

Some aspects of the current approach are not new; they represent ‘old wine in new bottles’. Seeking to improve the lives of New Zealanders through early interventions and focusing on outcomes, not outputs, have been features of successive governments’ social policies.

New elements include using administrative data to identify people at risk and model life courses, and preparing life- time benefit financial liabilities and then tracking changes in these to measure progress.4

There are three innovative features of New Zealand’ssocial investment approach.

The first is market segmentation: identifying groups and individuals with very specific needs. This is an example of using data, including administrative data, more effectively.

The second is product sophistication: tailoring interventions to better address the specific needs identified through market segmentation, setting very clear expectations about the returns sought from the intervention and measuring those returns. There is a clear shift in focus away from broad programmes covering large groups of people (e.g. the unemployed, single mothers, the injured, the disabled, etc.) to designing interventions that are focusing on specific clients with specific characteristics.

"Social investment means a programme funded by the Government that entails applying resources today in the expectation that a measurable improvement in a dimension of policy interest will result at some point in the future."

The final, and perhaps most novel but still least developed, feature of the social investment approach is a new mode of governance. Both Mr English and Ms Bennett have stated that they are not just looking for new ways to spend more money on policies that are unproven. The social investment approach involves harnessing the power of non-government providers of social programmes for hardto-reach clients. This will require new ways of commissioning and working with providers contracted to deliver outcomes. This could include more collaborative approaches, such as ‘Collective Impact’.5 This contrasts with the traditional approach under which providers were contracted to deliver defined services or outputs. Exactly how the new approach will work is still being developed.

Social investment in New Zealand is still a work in progress

While Ministers – at least the new Prime Minister and his Deputy – have a strong commitment to the social investment approach, it is still early days. We have yet to see a consistent understanding across agencies about what social investment means, how the approach will be operationalized in different areas of social policy, and how the new accountability framework will be applied in practice.

Rather than the centre creating a single blueprint and driving a consistent change in direction, change is being sought through an organic “bottom-up” approach. Ideas from different portfolios are being used as examples of what might be applied more generally. Examples include ACC’s focus on return to work and Work and Income using active labour market policies. Experimentation and learning will require ‘fast failures and franchising successes’: which will be challenging for Ministers, bureaucrats and providers.

Social investment still has its critics and its doubters

As noted, some critics of social investment see it as just another example of a centre-right government finding ways to cut social spending.

Others are concerned about how the approach is being implemented,6 the feasibility of funding for outcomes, that focusing on reducing forward financial liability risks poor outcomes.7 For example, if you give someone the responsibility to reduce the forward liability for income support for the unemployed, then someone getting a good job will have the same effect on the liability as someone being forced off a benefit and into begging.

A recent workshop held by NZIER and IGPS on social investment highlighted the wide gap between thinking about policy in Wellington and the experience of people with multiple needs and often complex lives. Working more closely with providers who are closer to the intended customers of the social investment approach remains a challenge.

Let’s avoid the perfect being the enemy of good

There is widespread agreement that for a range of subgroups of the population, improved economic performance since the mid-1990s has not been reflected in improved livings standards and life chances. This is despite years of active policy interventions and billions in social spending. There is a very limited evidence for many of the current programmes.8 We often only know what they cost. This is not due to a lack of caring, dedication or hard work on the behalf of front-line workers. But there are competing uses for public finances; and many voters/taxpayers remain unconvinced that all social spending is cost-effective. More money, by itself, is often insufficient – or even unnecessary – to fix the problems.

The social investment approach signals a commitment to improving Kiwis’ life chances while enhancing the government’s long-term fiscal position. This will require carefully targeted interventions, based on sound data and experience, delivered by skilled providers who are held accountable for delivering real, measurable, improvements in peoples’ lives. But is it doable?

Is the social investment approach going to have a material impact on improving the lives of some of the most disadvantaged Kiwis? It is too early to say but it is worth having a go. There are some positive developments afoot that, if successful, could contribute to the long-term aims of all governments; a New Zealand free from sustained cycles of disadvantage, with higher rates of social mobility, improved life-chances and greater wellbeing.

As NZIER’s joint project with IGPS proceeds, we will continue to explore the social investment approach. In particular, we are looking next at what is required to make the social investment approach succeed, what are the key constraints and obstacles and where it may be most usefully applied. Subsequent NZIER Insights in 2017 will report progress on addressing these issues.


1. Rosenberg, B. 2015. ‘The ‘Investment Approach’ Is Not an Investment Approach’. Policy Quarterly, 11(4): 34-41.

2. ‘Background paper for the 2016 Statement on the Long Term Fiscal Position’

3. To put that in perspective 5% of GDP is the similar order of magnitude on the fiscal balance as increasing GST to 17.5 % or adding 2 years to the retirement age for NZ Superannuation.

4. Edwards, D and E. Judd ‘Measuring Tomorrow’s Outcomes Today, Adopting an Investment Approach within the Ministry of Social Development’. 2015. Paper presented at the New Zealand Society of Actuaries biennial conference, Brave New World: data, longevity and ERM, Dunedin


6. James, C. 2015 ‘The "investment approach" – liabilities or assets?’ Institute for Governance and Policy Studies Working Paper 15/01

7. Chapple, S. 2014. ‘Forward Liability and Welfare Reform in New Zealand’. Policy Quarterly, 9(2): 57-62

8. See NZIER Insight No. 64

This article was first published here as NZIER Insight 67/2016. The full working paper is here.

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.



Sounds like another way of shovelling public money into the pockets of cronies.

Yup, starting with this joint investigative research project between NZIER and Vic Uni itself - which will be government funded in full.


Sounds like a bunch of erudite drivel from a right wing think tank. How about this. Since 1981 New Zealands FIRE (finance insurance real estate and insurance) economy has hollowed out real productivity gains and led to a significant reduction in living standards for the working class. The financial crisis of 2007 was followed zero and negative interest rate policies and the greatest episode of capital flight in human history emanating from China. Unfortunately, the fifth national government simultaneously implemented policies which magnified and exacerbated the wealth transfer effects of the aforementioned global events. Regressive taxation, flooding the country with 3rd world immigrants and rent seeking foreign capital greatly worsened the already dire situation.

Very well said.
Can the leopard change its spots?
Can the old dog learn new tricks?

Or more's to the point, what will it take for a new leopard and dog to change it all?

But, but, but, Patrick, you are not supposed to say that! Labour under dear Auntie Helen and Uncle Michael did exactly the same. You would think there was a conspiracy.

" Nothing to see here my friend. Wealth transfer is good. Move along now."

Shouldn't we be seeing a huuuuuge push to reduce housing costs given this way of thinking?

We would be, if Parliament and local councils didn't keep blocking attempts to change legislative and regulatory settings that make it illegal to provide affordable housing

jfree. great comment.

Bill and cabinet are on exactly the right track with this one and have been for some time. And those working in the frontline know there is nothing but chaos in the current system - but they are trapped in it. Problem is those in between - the Wellington civil servants - will have no concept of what Bill is talking about - and no intention or skill to implement it.
Prediction - the Sir Humphreys will win.

...designing interventions that are focusing on specific clients with specific characteristics.

*cough* racial profiling *cough*

So for example most people in prison are Maori Zac. What is your point ??

My point is that this statement is a bit mealy-mouthed however we are generally not allowed to be frank about things if we are European. We aren't even allowed to advocate for programs that target our own demographic even though it could reduce recidivism. The way things are structured in society currently is interesting when you think about it. For the European being free means enjoying what is perceived to be White privilege which is a great incentive to stay free. In prison this perception could be a big negative, a big disadvantage, thus reducing the liklihood of going to prison in the first place.

Are you sure it is 'most'? As opposed to disproportionately high?

It is a sad fact that class and income follow racial divides in society.
Unfortunately, your gleeful enjoyment of white privilege, whilst denying there is such a thing, only contributes to the status quo.
My concern is also about the use of the word 'clients' in the report. We are no longer humans and citizens, we are consumers and clients.
I think it is a worrying trend when this extends to social services and security.

" The social investment approach involves harnessing the power of non-government providers of social programmes for hard to-reach clients."

Would also be interested to know how the authors of the report differentiate between 'outcomes' v 'outputs'?

Here are the stats for 2012 which shows the figure at 51% however a note of caution, it may well be advantageous to claim Maori heritage thus skewing the figures.

New Zealand's prison population

White Privilege

What do you see as the difference between a "consumer", a "client", a "human" and a "citizen" and why does it worry you?

A Client:
1. a person, company, etc, that seeks the advice of a professional man or woman
2. a customer
3. a person who is registered with or receiving services or financial aid from a welfare agency
4. computing a program or work station that requests data or information from a server
5. a person depending on another's patronage

1. a person who acquires goods and services for his or her own personal needs.
2. a person or thing that consumes

5. a human being; person

1. a native registered or naturalized member of a state, nation, or other political community.
2. an inhabitant of a city or town
3. a native or inhabitant of any place
4. a civilian, as opposed to a soldier, public official, etc

As consumers, we are defined by the action of consumption. It is what defines us. If we do not consume (go off grid, so to speak), we cease to count, or count as much
As clients, we seem to be defined by being dependent on another, be it a person, or state agency. We're recipients of a service, and that is what defines us.
Human and citizen speak for themselves, I would have thought. The more narrow definitions of humans as consumers and clients also means a narrowing of our rights. It is a market driven view, a view purely from an economical perspective as opposed to an ethical, moral perspective.
This trend does not worry you? I see it as an erosion of our rights, a re-setting of what holds priority: ethics, or markets.

Are you equally offended when doctors refer to certain humans as "patients", or when universities refer to certain humans as "students"?

They are simply identifying those humans to whom they have a particular responsibility, or with whom they have a specific relationship, at a particular time and in particular circumstances. It doesn't mean that people called "patients" or "students" aren't also humans and it doesn't reduce their rights. On the contrary, it acknowledges that they have claims which others don't.

Similarly, at any given time there will be some humans who are identified as requiring the help of social services, and some who aren't. You are presumably not advocating that social services should treat both groups the same on the grounds that everybody is a human and a citizen, and so they need some language to differentiate. If you don't like the word "client", what would you prefer?

I'm not bothered by 'patients' but I was when the hospital I trained at in the UK kept referring to them as 'customers'

And why were you bothered by that? A customer is somebody who is paying for something and therefore deserves to be provided with it; it's in the provider's interests to do their best to please the customer, otherwise the customer will go elsewhere and the provider will lose out.

Actually, the NHS would benefit from the 'customers' going private. Less workload, same taxes (more or less). No-one paid for our services directly, and the vast majority had no real choice about who provided it.

Normally the drive in medicine is to do what you can to keep people alive and healthy, reducing it to trying to please customers to drive revenue feels quite dehumanising and depressing to me.

The whole point of the "customer" nomenclature is not that they are customers, in the sense of people who are paying for what they get and don't have to pay you for it if they like somebody else's offering better.

It is to treat them as if they are. And that means treating them better. It means doing more than just "doing what you can to keep people alive and healthy". How could "trying to please the customer" possibly equate to doing less than that?

Well, we could follow the alternative medicine competition and tell them they'll be fine with some sugar pills and crystals. Much more pleasing than the treatments we put them through.

We're basically arguing over opinions here. In my opinion caring for a patient implies more care and attention than delivering a service to a customer. Calling a patient a customer takes something away from the relationship, rather than adding to it.

who said I was offended?
I think the word 'client' implies a choice, free will to obtain the service or not. With regard to social services, this choice or free will is pretty much absent - it is a necessity, mostly. To refer to people needing government assistance as 'clients', strips them of much of their dignity and rights, it whittles them down to being dependent.

Bureaucrats above Citizens, always. And it is sad, really.

You can't have it both ways.

If you are going to take "client" as meaning "somebody who has a choice", and also argue that recipients of social services haven't in fact got a choice - then calling the recipients of social services "clients" is not "whittling them down to being dependent".

On the contrary, regarding and treating somebody who hasn't got a choice, as if he did, represents an increase in respect and dignity.

It could be worse, they could be called "resources".


Zachary - it can always be worse.
But the fact that it can 'always be worse' surely is no reason to accept things as they are? What: aim for mediocre because it could always be worse?

Sad comment there DFTBA. You are blinded by the polical lobby (who might not be maori) about maori privilege. Time to get real about who needs help and who needs to change. And quibbling about language just gives yourself permission to do stuff all.

Maori do not have privilege in this country.....if they had, they would not be at the bottom of the social heap, nor overrepresented in poor health stats or prison population stats.....
To put this in perspective (an to explain white privilege at the same time): The grand total amount of Waitangi settlements to Iwi is less - yes, less - than the NZD1.6 billion the government paid out to 'save' South Canterbury Finance.

My question about 'most' or 'disproportionately' was genuine, btw, would like to see numbers...

Maori electorate, Maori quotas in government, treaty claims, preferential treatment for education, Korotangi Paki,etc, etc.
That seems like privilege to me..

Everything you've mentioned are designed to try and level the playing field, which is very much tilted in favour of NZ'ers of European descent.
It's not a privilege if it is designed to get you up to level with the rest of the population.
Treaty claim, for instance, are there to right a wrong: the epic scale of land robbery from Maori by European settlers/government. By addressing this historic wrong and trying to right it, you are not giving privilege to the disenfranchised: you are giving up your own privilege.
And yes, I get that that smarts a bit

"It's not a privilege if it is designed to get you up to level with the rest of the population."

Do I as a white human have the same factors afforded to me?
No. So then, how can it not be a privilege?
Why should I through not fault of my own have to sacrifice for the (supposed) misgivings of someone who 150 years ago shared the same skin colour as me? Is that not the very foundation of discrimination?

As a white (male, presumably) you are literally born with these privileges. You are the top of the social heap. The top dog. The group which makes the most amount of money, has most doors opened for them, have the most opportunities, simply by being born white, and male.
The fact that you enjoy a better life at the expense of another, more marginalised group, means your privilege, your life, is unfair to those around you.
So yes, you have to 'sacrifice' this unfair advantage. Because it is an unfair advantage....i
It is the ethical thing to do to try and right wrongs, even if they have not been actively committed by you.
The discrimination lies in acknowledging that your group is better off, through mere happenstance of colour of skin and social standing of your own ethnic group, and refusing to do something about it.

Wrong. Don't confuse culture and genetics.
This is where the SJW argument falls to pieces.

You incorrectly assume that all white people grow up in 'silver spoon' circumstances. Which is simply just not realistic. When you do consider the fact that it is possible that white people can be born into poverty, you realise the substantial disadvantage such a child would have - For instance a white child growing up with a single parent from a low income demographic has significantly less privilege than a Maori child in the same circumstance if we consider access to education and the other aforementioned factors.

The difference is that the Maori child will face institutionalised discrimination for the rest of its life.
The white child won't.
Even without the advantages re education (which, if I may remind you - again - are designed to level the field, not to give an actual advantage), the white child will possibly have more chance to get accepted into better school, have better grades, more scholar ship opportunities, more employment opportunities, and ultimately, earn more once employed.
One is facing a disadvantage through the parents' circumstance.
The other is facing disadvantages which are embedded in our culture, and hard to erode (as you so eloquently are proving).

If we had institutionalised racism in NZ, there would not have been such a fuss made over Peter Leitch's comments the other week.
Instead everyone kicked up a fuss over the most benign of statements. A statement that was significantly less discriminatory than the quoted remarks of the complainant herself. Such a predicament actually begs the question of whether white people are indeed the ones who suffer from institutionalised suppression.
This, in fact would be as you state "facing disadvantages which are embedded in our culture."

If I recall correctly, the whole of NZ establishment came down like a ton of bricks on Lara, in defence of Peter Leitch.
Even though the fact remains that he's the one who made the racist comments, not her.
So yes, again, institutionalised. Poor Lara was just being hysterical, it was only a joke, she was the one in the wrong, etc.
I wasn't there, though, I didn't hear the conversation (did you?) so it's a classic he said she said scenario.
That being said, SPL assumed a Maori family 'wasn't from around here'. He was wrong, Lara was born there.
His response of 'this is a white man's island, and you need to acknowledge that' sounds more like he was on the defensive, and had his heckles up, rather than the other way around.
When Michelle Boag gave her two cents worth, she firstly dismissed it out of hand (it wasn't a racist comment), she then tried to diminish it (Lara is barely coffee coloured - as if you can only identify as Maori when you're dark?), and then tried to laugh it off (I actually want to have a tan that colour myself. [oh dear. se didn't]).
Celebrity after celebrity came out in his defence, even though they weren't there, and assured all of us that he didn't have a racist bone in his body.
That, may friend, is institutionalised discrimination. And thank you again for proving my point....

Right, Why would any one approach some women, uninvited, and talk about drinking and driving, and then follow it up with those remarks ? Unless the women were making nuisances of themselves. Beyond me.

I don't think you do recall correctly. Some individuals defended Leitch, others attacked him. Both the DomPost and the Herald editorialised earnestly about how racist we all are, Susan Devoy's vacillating response can hardly be described as "coming down like a ton of bricks", and I'm not aware that any Government minister has said anything about it.

Nor do I think it is a "fact" that he's the one who made racist comments, not her.

For a start, you acknowledge that you weren't there and therefore you don't actually know who said what, any more than anybody else does.

For another thing, we are told that racism is in the ear of the hearer. Thus, if somebody thinks that what you said was racist, then it was.

Well then, some accounts have her saying "I am tangata whenua and I can do what I want". It's difficult to imagine a statement that more perfectly fits the definition of racism - the assumption that rights and freedoms are determined by race.

In other words, my opinion that she made a racist comment means that she did, and the argument that she didn't mean to imply that she thought her race made her immune from the law against drunk-driving has no more and no less weight than the argument that Leitch didn't mean to imply that she had no business being on Waiheke.

She denies that she said 'I can do what I want' immediately.
Although that fact seems to have been fallen through the MSM cracks when reporting on this case.

You miss the point. If institutionalised racism was the dominant cultural factor then this story wouldn't have even been mentioned. Everyone would have dismissed it as 'normal' behaviour. Instead it was made into headline news that some potentially racist grievance had occured. If racision was truly institutionalised in NZ, SPL wouldn't have cared one bit about his comments and nor would have the majority of the public.

What you are insinuating is that SPL supporters willingly lied about his character in order to perpetuate a regime of discrimination. You really think they would sacrifice their public images in order to support racist/discriminatory predilections?

It's simple DFTBA. You whinge. Bill has a plan to address real need. I'm with Bill.

I have not come out against the proposals in this article/paper.
Where have I said I was against what was being proposed, here?

You're the one who used this example to prove there was no institutionalised racism in this country.
And yes, his comments were largely dismissed as harmless, as not racist, as just a bit of banter.
The majority of reporting came out in his favour, not hers.
The only reason why it made the headline, was because a well known figure was involved, one who has had a title bestowed upon him, as well.
I'm not saying that SPL supporters willing lied, or even lied, full stop, about his character. My point is that what he said was not perceived to be racist by himself, or by his defenders..
And that is the gritty thing about it being institutionalised: it's so normalised it's not seen for what it is.

It is not about who said what. It is about the fact that it was reported.
In order for it to be reported, there must be some tangible welfare in doing so. In the case that everyone was so inherently racist, what welfare would the report provide? Everyone that mattered (the white master race in your rhetoric) would be indifferent to what happened.
Judging by the frequency of racism reported in the media and the calibre of this case, it doesn't really justify endemic widespread discrimination in NZ.

Plus, I just can't see how you can make an argument for discrimination against Maori when the balance of policy is skewed in their favour and you justify such policy by discriminating against other groups of people.
By all means fight racism. Point out the racists so we can all address that behaviour within those individuals (SPL is not one) and institutions. However just blindly blanketing all nz society as inherrently racist doesn't do anything to address equality; it just frames you as another rhetoric bashing SJW.

Privilege ? Try being a white guy who says something even remotely critical of maori. Then experience the fires of hell desending upon you. Happens about once a week in the national media. Maori have the 'privilege' here.

why would you say something critical about an ethnic group - as an ethnic group?
If the criticism is about their ethnicity, or blaming their ethnicity for anything, then that is racist...

Spot on, mate.

LOL DFTBA. Reread your post at 13.50 above. Then the 14.50. You have proved yourself a racist.

Bread and crumbs, you mean ?

More money for analysts, for sure...

I have been to prison as a visitor at ngawha,auckland and waikeria and it looked 50% to me with a sprinkling of asians,however attendees at whangarei courthouse it would be 90%.

To DFTBA. - Zach has given you the stat you asked for. But perhaps you actually are not interested. Now lets see somthing positive from you .Ratber than let these humans rot in prison which is just the tail end of a mess of social mayhem. Tell us what you would do about it especially in terms of Bills social investment ideas.
(I am assuming for the argument that you are interested inthese humans and their victims. But I suspect you are not) (and we know almost nothing works or is v v difficult)

KH: I hadn't had the time to look at the stats by the time I replied. I have now, and yes, the overall percentage definitely declares 'most' of the prison population to be Maori.
It's a rather odd assumption to make that I'm not interested in these humans and their victims - not sure what bought that on.
I'd be much more focused on preventative measures, such as tailored education, job opportunities, strengthening communities.
Rehabilitation is another thing which has been done badly, and could be improved on immensely.
You should look at what David Clendon from the Greens has been working on, he's been looking at these issues from quite some time.
But the crux of the matter is equality. both economically and socially.
Inequality leads to social discontent, to social unrest, to violence.
No group wants to feel as if they've been left behind, treated unfairly, have not had the same opportunities as the group of people who are in power.
A holistic approach to all these underlying issues is certainly my favoured method....

Inequality is a fact of life after all these years of capitalism. A sad reality. Not saying other forms of economy will be better in rectifying that, but we must realise the cause of today's inequality to be able to take measures under the present system to alleviate it. Which probably is not happening to the extent desired.

To DFTBA. yeah and nah.
Yeah to you suggesting 'preventative' 'tailored' etc. I take it you might agree then with Bill and Cabinet. At least it"s a plan in this near impossible area.
Nah to the chip on the shoulder stuff. That's for folk who whinge to avoid getting up and doing something.

A parallel

One week ago the support for Benjamin Netanyehu and Israel theiving the land of the Palestinians by occupying with settlements. When the Palestinians protest by throwing rocks at the members of the IDF who retaliate with AK47's

The legitimacy of the theft is presented as having biblical origins

The NZ media and commentariat all came out 100% in support of Israel

The parallel is the theft of Maori lands by the white colonialists

So, if the Maori were to now exert their claims and begin occupying the lands of their birthright, by overwhelming force, all those same people, the media and the commentariat would come out in 100% TOTAL support of the Maori, yes

Won't be holding my breath, though

Politics/International Relations is a moody bitch.

just got the chance to sit in judgement on wrongdoers myself,invite to jury service in late february,first time for me.chance to earn 31.00 dollars per half day.bring a snack and something to read is the advice in accompanying leaflet.there is an escape clause for those with TMB(too many birthdays)so i declined with regret,dont feel qualified to judge anybody.

Vilfredo Pareto, in the early 20th century, noted the fact that 80% of wealth was owned by 20% of the populace. That 80/20 split applies to many aspects of human endeavour - or misdemeanour.

So the Gubmint's policy is simply to use Big Data to identify that 20% which will cost the rest of us 80% of our hard-earned taxes, and to head 'em off at the pass.

It does of course raise a yuge number of ethical questions, such as that posed by the Dunedin longitudinal study: if at least some of the future perps can be identified at age 4 by the marshmallow test or something similar, whaddaya do with that info? Who administers, who decides what action to take, who follows up with action, who reports back and to whom? And there is always the oldest issue of all - Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Take an overview of this whole comment stream. Bill English proposes an entirele sensible approach in place of the chaotic programmes we have now for social issues. can people even discuss the proposal - well no.
We get a chip on shoulder platoon, who would rather whinge about white superiority, the right words etc etc. Clearly these people would rather do anything other than get on with a solution.
Bill and cabinet have a task in a difficult area. These attitudes make it impossible to move forward

It is interesting and heartening to see government concerned to ensure that social investment gives a longer term benefit. It is of course tax payers money that is being used, so we do need assurance that that spend is giving a benefit to society as a whole.
Of concern is the cost of collecting the data and reliability of the analysis, particularly were information is incomplete. Nevertheless, the concept is not without merit.
Perhaps the real challenge however, is in isolating the underlying causes of the hardship people are experiencing and addressing those. Fortunately, NZ has the Otago study, which studied over a 1000 babies and tracked them in detail for over 40 years.
Perhaps the most significant finding from this study, is any person’s outcomes is related to a mix of their genetic make-up and the environment in which they exist. More significantly, this study suggested the weighting between genetics and environment is 30%/70%.
Perhaps the biggest gap with the current social investment is it focuses on NGO’s working with clients. While we all need skill development and support is very important for those facing significant challenges and difficulties in their lives, the more significant factor may well be the environment they exist in.
Accountability for people’s outcome cannot rest solely with NGO’s. The government must be accountable for its social bureaucratic systems. These systems contribute significantly to the environment we exist in, an environment as individuals we are powerless to change. If we are serious about improving people’s outcomes, then looking at the social systems and ensuring they are contributing positively to people life’s is imperative. Regrettably, many of these systems do just the opposite and contribute significantly to the hardship people experience at the expense of those directly affected and society as a whole.
A key example of this is our taxation and redistribution systems. The inability of governments to curtail the rising house prices simply results in us borrowing more and more, often from overseas, to buy the houses we already own. It doesn’t matter what price tag is placed on a dwelling it still gives the same benefit – a place to keep us warm and dry, raise our families, entertain friends, a place to call home. So why have we allowed house prices to be driven up. It is our fear that we will be left in poverty if we don’t own our own homes. This is an illusion. It is the rising prices that have made us poor, increasing the burden of debt and placing us, both as individuals and as a society at risk.
The other side of the coin is the redistribution system. Regrettably our very complex abatement system can end up discouraging people from taking more positive steps to ensuring they are able to look after their own well-being. Benefit reliance can then become inter-generational. Children tend to earn similar incomes to what their parents earn. This is the environmental factor at work.
The fundamental purpose of government is to help create an environment of trust and co-operation, so we can all work together for mutual benefit. If we want to improve social outcomes we need to ensure that all social systems are designed to maximise the potential for everyone to take responsibility for their needs. Regrettably these social bureaucratic systems are doing the opposite. We must remember the Otago study, an internationally recognised study, and use this information to ensure our government systems are working for the people.