Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Govt's 10 public aims all on target

'Ambitious' goals in areas including welfare, crime and health are in sight but $80 million aims to smooth path.

The target to fully immunise 95 per cent of infants has already been met. Photo / Getty Images
The target to fully immunise 95 per cent of infants has already been met. Photo / Getty Images

The Government says it is on track to reach all 10 of its public-sector targets on welfare, crime, health and other areas but admits there could be some "bumps" on the way and has earmarked $80 million to make sure they are met.

State Services Minister Jonathan Coleman also hinted at further cuts to the public service in future because the target of hugely increasing government's online services would probably lead to fewer staff in some agencies.

Ministers yesterday made their first progress report on the Better Public Service targets, which were meant to be reached within four to five years. Crime and welfare numbers had dropped and child immunisation and education rates had increased slightly.

Mr Coleman said the Government had not set "absolute" benchmarks to be reached in interim years, but he was confident all sectors were making progress towards their final goals. "We're not going backwards on any of them."

He stressed the targets were ambitious and would require further, significant commitments from the public service.

To help departments reach the goals, Government announced a seed fund of $20 million a year over four years, taken from underspends in other sectors. Mr Coleman said this had come from a range of departments, with Defence contributing $10 million in the last Budget.

Mr Coleman said the boost in online services and payments could eventually mean technology replaced people in some agencies.

Welfare

1. Cut the number of people who have been on a working age benefit for more than 12 months by 30 per cent

In the past year, the number of long-term beneficiaries fell from 78,212 to 75,366 - a drop of 3.6 per cent.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett argued this fall showed the Government's major welfare reforms were already producing results. The reforms included identifying and working intensively with 10,000 beneficiaries who were at risk of long-term welfare dependency. She expected more cuts after the next round of welfare reforms kicked in next week, which included a rise in drug-testing.

Children

2. Increase participation in quality early childhood education to 98 per cent by 2018

Education Minister Hekia Parata said 95.7 per cent of children starting school had participated in early childhood education, an increase of 0.7 percentage points in the past year.

3. Fully immunise 95 per cent of infants and cut rheumatic fever to 1.4 cases per 100,000 people by June 2017

This year's immunisation target has already been met. Health Minister Tony Ryall said 89 per cent of 8-month-olds had been fully immunised to protect them from diseases such as whooping cough and hepatitis B. In the past year, the number of hospitalisations of acute rheumatic fever fell from 187 (4.2 per 100,000 people) to 171 (3.9 per 100,000). "Although these figures are encouraging, it is too early to confirm the declining trend."

4. Reduce the number of assaults on children by 5 per cent by 2017

In the year to March 2013, the number of children who were physically abused dropped from 3156 to 3044 - a fall of 3.5 per cent. Mrs Bennett said it was an encouraging trend but the substantiated abuse figures had tended to fluctuate in the past. Government was increasing the number of social workers in hospitals and poor schools to combat the problem.

Skills and Employment

5. Increase proportion of 18-year-olds with NCEA Level 2 or equivalent to 85 per cent by 2017

In 2011-2012, the number of 18-year-olds gaining a Level 2 qualification rose from 74.3 per cent to 77.2 per cent - exceeding the level set for the Education Minister.

6. Increase the proportion of 25- to 34-year-olds with advanced trade qualifications, diplomas and degrees

Last year 52.6 per cent in this age group had higher qualifications, up from 51.8 per cent in 2011. Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce has been set a goal of getting 55 per cent of people in this age bracket to gain Level 4 qualifications by 2017.

Crime

7. By June 2017, reduce total crime by 15 per cent, violent crime by 20 per cent, and youth crime by 5 per cent

In the past year, youth crime fell by 12 per cent and total crime by 6 per cent. Justice Minister Judith Collins said young people made up a third of all arrests, and if they could be kept out of court in their teens then they stood a good chance of staying out of the justice system for life.

8. Reduce re-offending by 25 per cent by 2017

Cutting the reoffending rate is one of Government's most ambitious goals, and in the past year recidivism fell by 4 per cent. Mrs Collins said the result was partly due to greater investment in restorative justice sessions, which received a further boost in funding in this year's Budget.

Government interaction

9. Create a one-stop online shop for New Zealand businesses for government advice and support

Economic Development Minister Mr Joyce pointed to a range of initiatives including a scheme to unite a firm's name, domain and trademark online, reducing the effort required to find the information.

10. 70 per cent of New Zealanders' transactions with Government made online by 2017

This target was measured in 10 areas, including passport applications and GST returns. Mr Joyce said a third of passport applications were filed online in the year to March this year. "This means we are halfway to the 70 per cent target within six months of the online service being launched." There were also slight increases in tax returns and welfare applications made online.

- NZ Herald

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