The Prime Minister announced yesterday that the Government would no longer just report on outputs, but would have 10 specific outcomes that they will be measured against. Each outcome or target will be the responsibility of a specific Minister and specific Department CEO.
I think few would disagree that having the Government focus more on actual outcomes, rather than outputs is a bad thing. It makes the Government more accountable. It may in fact have a flow on effect that in future elections major parties will be expected to state in advance what outcomes they pledge to achieve if elected. It is easy to pledge that you will spend (for example) $50 million more on public health, but far more risky to actually pledge you will increase the immunisation rate by (for example) 20%.
The Government has given ten targets that they wish to achieve, and will be partially judged on. I thought it would be useful to look briefly at each target, and see how easy or difficult it is likely to be to achieve.
A reduction in long-term welfare dependency, in particular a significant drop in the number of people who have been on a benefit for more than 12 months
This one is reasonably tough. The wider economy has a significant impact on the number of people on welfare, and off memory generally the number of people on the invalids and sickness benefits for more than 12 months has been growing. The DPB changes are likely to be the major influence here, along with whether economic growth picks up enough to reduce the long-term unemployed.
More young children, and particularly Maori and Pacific children, in early childhood education
There is no specific figure yet. The number of Maori and Pacific children is growing rapidly, so the target should be that the proportion of them in ECE increases. Generally the trend is for a growing proportion of under 5s to be in ECE, but I am unsure how this is reflected in different ethnicities. However my feeling is this shouldn't be too difficult to achieve.
Immunisation rates for infants to increase, and a substantial reduction in rheumatic fever cases among children
This target may prove moderately difficult. Despite immunisations being free to receive, there are significant numbers of parents who still do not immunise their children. So it is not as simple as just providing more funding. The Government needs to find a way to contact families individually and encourage them to get their kids immunised.
A reduction in the number of assaults on children
This is arguably the most important target, and the most difficult. Our child abuse rates are horrific, and the factors complex. The root causes are often generational - those who abuse were often abused themselves, creating an increasing spiral of abuse. One has to hope that the consultation on the Government's Green Paper leads to an action plan that actually makes a difference.
An increase in the proportion of 18-year-olds with NCEA level 2 or an equivalent qualification
The target has been set to increase from 68% to 85% in five years. I put this one in the difficult category also. This isn't just about keeping people at school, but making sure more 18 year olds actually have a level of qualification that makes them employable.
A more skilled workforce, with an increase in the number of people coming through with advanced trade qualifications, diplomas and degrees
This target shouldn't be too difficult as the long-term trend has been for these numbers to increase.
A reduction in the crime rate, not just total crime, but also violent crime and youth crime
If the target was the crime rate only, it would be fairly easy as it has trended down for many years. But the overall crime rate is a near meaningless figure as it treats all crimes as equal. The violent crime rate is in my opinion the far more important one, and hasn't had the same consistent downwards trend. This could be moderately difficult to achieve.
A reduction in the rate of re-offending
Rehabilitation and reduced re-offending is the holy grail for law & order. Everyone wants it, but it is very hard to find it, as in find surefire ways that work. If it was easy to do, all countries would be doing it. I rate this as a very difficult target.
A one-stop online shop for all government advice and support that businesses need
This should be well achievable in five years.
See transactions with government completed easily in a digital environment
I find most transactions are already easy to do online, so don't see this one as too tough either.
These are five year goals. At the time of the next election, we'll be halfway through that period. It will be unreasonable to expect them to be completed by then, but voters will expect significant progress, and that the indicators are moving in the right direction. If they are not, the Government will have made a rod for its own back.