Paul Barber from the NZ Council of Christian Social Services on hope, poverty, family violence, fixing a broken welfare system, reducing inequality through tax reform, virtual mechanics, what great people social workers are and more

Today's Top 10 is a guest post from Paul Barber, a Policy Advisor with the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS), the umbrella group for the social service agencies of the churches. He leads their work on poverty and exclusion, housing and inequality.  

As always, we welcome your additions in the comments below or via email to david.chaston@interest.co.nz.

And if you're interested in contributing the occasional Top 10 yourself, contact gareth.vaughan@interest.co.nz.

See all previous Top 10s here.

Hope is the theme for this Top Ten – Ten of the many things that are happening that are giving hope for better communities, a better country and even a better world!

1. Hope is not empty optimism – real hope is grounded in lived experiences of overcoming obstacles and bringing about change, despite the odds. Every day social workers, carers, budget advisors, counsellors and volunteers are bringing that hope to the people, whānau and communities they work. Here are some stories to lift our seasonal “Hope-o-meter”… 

 (source for image: http://www.visavis.dk/2013/02/hope-for-future-is-power-for-present/ )
 

2. Cross-party consensus on child poverty – it is refreshing to listen to MP in Parliament falling over themselves to be nice to each other as they chose to work together to vote through the Child Poverty Reduction Bill that will become law this month. Unfortunately, we don’t know if child poverty is actually reducing yet, because the latest MSD report on poverty didn’t include the child poverty stats for the past two years because of concerns about their accuracy. We are assured that StatsNZ will be releasing the numbers early next year – they will be for 2017, so can serve as a baseline to measure the impact of changes introduced since then.

3. Another cross-party agreement saw better family violence laws passed that come into effect this week. If you check out this White Ribbon Day video from the Association of Social Workers, you will understand why we need better laws to help reduce family violence. 

4. A broken welfare system is starting to be fixed – the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) has been on the road hearing people’s stories to help inform significant changes that need to happen to the social welfare system. It is due to report in early 2019. In the meantime, Work & Income has been working on making its offices more welcoming places for people to be, and they are getting better – but there is still a long way to go.

5. Tax reform focus on reducing inequalityThe Tax Working Group’s Interim Report in September recognised the role the tax system has in addressing the imbalances and unfairness in society. New Zealand’s tax system performs among the worst of the OECD countries when it comes to redistributing income. The TWG is looking at lifting incomes for the lower paid by reducing the tax on people on low and middle incomes. They are also looking at recommendations to extending current tax rules to include currently untaxed wealth gains so that the wealthiest pay a fairer tax on their wealth. Will these changes be enough to reduce inequality significantly? it is a good start but at NZCCSS we think more is needed.

6. Homeless people finding homes – Christchurch is seeing a drop in the number of people living on the streets thanks to the work of the Housing First collective impact group down there, including Christchurch Methodist Mission, Comcare, Otautahi Community Housing Trust, Emerge Aotearoa, the Anglican City Mission and Te Whare Roimata.

7. Virtual mechanics - Virtual reality technology is helping prisoners get a qualification thanks to the shared project between the Methodist Mission in Dunedin, Otago University and Animation Research working together with prisoners in Dunedin’s Milton Prison.

8. Social workers aren’t they great people! The Christmas season is a time when their help is really needed. Here is some feedback shared with us recently: “Because of my social worker I am now drug free and do not gravitate toward substances. Also, I am more positive. I have changed who I associate with and try to remove negative things and people from my life.”

9. Season of giving - Lots of people do want to help others and here are some really good tips from some charities about how to give well this Christmas.

10. A turning point in reducing inequality? We are not there yet, there is a lot more to do with many challenges ahead, but perhaps 2019 will be the year when we look back and say that inequality started to reduce in this country. The combination of lifting low wages, lower unemployment, a better welfare system, fairer taxation, and more affordable housing are some of the key elements for a fairer society where everyone does better, not just a select few ‘lucky ones’. That is what I hope for this Christmas and the coming years.

Wishing everyone an Advent and Christmas season filled with hope and joy.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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11 Comments

I don't want to undermine the message here, because what he says is totally right, but they are just sticking plasters on a far bigger festering issue that has been highlighted in a few articles recently on this site here and here, and others. The real hope is that we get politicians and a Government with the real courage to truly represent the people who put them into power, and do something real to make a significant difference to their lot in the world.

I would argue the real hope is having a government that educates its people to a point where they are employable now and into the future. Labour doing a good job so far.
Who are the people who put them into power? Was it the rich, the poor, the hippies, the cities, the provinces, etc? Can a government possibly represent everyone?

They should at least try. It is more than education though. There needs to be the jobs as well.

I have to agree that all Governments don't even try to represent the entire country. You would think that given all the MPs they have they would have the capability to do it, but I think we overestimate the capability of the average MP.

I'm confused - I can't really think of any issue where the government could represent the entire country. Can you give an example?

Labour highlighting the problems, but no real answers. MMP put them in sadly

Totally Agree. BUT will just keep on dreaming.

3. It's a shame that the White Ribbon campaign and other initiatives regards family violence are focusing exclusively on violence by men against women. If you click on that White Ribbon video, you can see the gender exclusive targeting. But behind every child tragedy there will be a mother. And in many/most of the most tragic cases these mothers are repeat offenders when it comes to poor parenting - neglect, abandonment, leaving young children in the care of others, the list goes on;

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10512155

Very brave Kate, but you're right. The failure of families in today's western culture is the beginning of most of societies problems that we all experience in one way or another. Men & women both need to take responsibility here as it's the breakdown of their relationships in the first place that has led to, what my friend in blue calls this 'disorder & chaos.'
Men for f....... around & then f........ off & women for being almost totally unable to parent at 16 (& on their own) because they don't even know who they are themselves as teenagers, let alone how to care for & love their children in any decent way, shape or form.
Men in particular, do not seem to want to grow up & take responsibility for their own actions (which can have some pretty brutal consequences). Especially young men (16-24). Even though we call them young men, there are a substantial part of them who are adolescent layabouts, with a smaller group of them totally irresponsible human beings. Young men are almost encouraged to rage against the world & try & get away with anything they can. And in many instances they will & they do. Young men need to be overseen by older wiser men but are sadly not in so many situations. The generation we gap created 40-50 years ago is still there/here today & society has been paying the price in its jails, in its halls of justice, in its hospitals & worst of all, in its dysfunctional 'family' homes, ever since.
Interesting note to the above article, they're checking their numbers before opening their big mouths, which is what I should probably do here as well, but from what I've seen & heard & read about, my best guess is that 1 in 5 NZ Inc homes is relationally dysfunctional, to the detriment of most of the other family members, in some way, that feeds into the wider world in some bad way or another.
The devaluation of the nuclear family in both reality and also in law, has encouraged this relational collapse of epic proportions, which we can hear about & see every day of our lives. Nobody is not affected. And if you think you are, then good for you, but let me say, you're paying for it your taxes every day you go to work. Or you get to your car at 7.30am ready for work & some b.........d has broken into it & stolen your whatever. You get my point. It's out of control. And I believe most of that is caused because when they were born into it those many years ago, the situation was never in control of itself to begin with.
We dropped the ball at the first hurdle & have never recovered since.
I've got more, but I'll finish here. The next exciting episode will be on how television corrupted the world. That'll be fun. Have a great weekend everyone.
And a Merry Christmas to every social worker in New Zealand.

Lots of good points there about the disintegration of the nuclear family. But, one of the points you do definitely need to research the statistics on is the impression you give that more men commit infidelity than women. The world has moved on and I think you'd be surprised with the more recent research on the younger cohorts (i.e., Gen Y and Z).

Sadly you might be right Kate.