Whanau Ora: Call for nation to back programme long-term

By Yvonne Tahana

Whanau Ora could be a waste if successive governments don't make a long-term commitment to it. Photo / Thinkstock
Whanau Ora could be a waste if successive governments don't make a long-term commitment to it. Photo / Thinkstock

The Government's flagship welfare policy for Maori, Whanau Ora - worth $40 million this year - is designed to lift families out of poverty and dysfunction, but it has been criticised as a waste of money and an opportunity for some to rort the system. In a four-part investigation reporter Yvonne Tahana speaks to those at Whanau Ora's frontline.

Auckland leaders say Whanau Ora could be a waste if successive governments don't make a long-term commitment to it.

Spending on services for contracted providers peaks this year at $33 million but drops to $21 million in following years and there is no certainty of funding beyond 2016.

Te Puni Kokiri, the Maori development ministry, said there were at least 120 whanau involved in projects through contracts managed in the Auckland region, and 156 whanau plans undertaken by five provider collectives.

Auckland Whanau Ora Regional Leadership Group chairman Charles Joe said he believed the programme needed to be supported for at least 15 years.

"It will be sad if it doesn't go beyond the three remaining years. I only hope that the whole whanau-centred approach is going to approach some really good outcomes ... so that anyone who [is elected] will continue in that process."

But more work needs to be done to ensure that services are not duplicated and resources wasted in the sector, he said.

The National Urban Maori Authority represents a collective of organisations in West Auckland, South Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch who are implementing Whanau Ora.

Its chairman, broadcaster and former MP Willie Jackson, said the point of the initiative was to break state dependency, move families out of dysfunctional situations and help them set a course for brighter futures.

"It's about getting people off those benefits, it's not about supporting them forever and a day. I do get a little bit tired because I see the milking of the benefits and it's unacceptable for us.

"We've got to stop that and without a doubt this is the approach.

"This is a waste of time [if funding stops] because we're talking about ... reorganising families.

"We need this in the Maori world because we've become so dependent on the state. The reality is, if they fund this programme properly, it could really make a huge change."

WHAT IS WHANAU ORA?
Whanau Ora (Well Families) is a Government welfare policy initiated by the Maori Party. It is open for everyone but its focus is on Maori families.

HOW IT WORKS
Social agencies work with whanau to help identify and improve problem issues such as poor housing, health, education and legal problems. They also ask the family to plan a future which moves them from state dependency to become financially independent and healthy participants in their community.

It is funded in two parts:
* $33.2m this year for agencies to form consortiums to work together with whanau to improve all elements of their wellbeing.

* $6.4m this year directly for whanau to form their own plans to improve their wellbeing.

THE SERIES
We have travelled to four of the areas where the services are most in demand.
Monday: Tai Tokerau (Northland)
* Urgent review follows abuse of scheme
* Disabled uncle has new hope after 14 years on benefit
Doors open to decent housing and a better lifestyle
* More cash the key to better lives, says CEO

Today: Waikato-Tainui
* Dream of life in Oz unites family
* Children put first with help of family plan
* Engagement and support replace expulsion at school
* Tainui seeks investors to help build $20m centre

Today: Te Arawa (Rotorua)
Thursday: Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland)

NEED MORE INFO?
Email: Whanau Ora
Visit: Te Puni Kokiri

- NZ Herald

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