Government services are always looking for savings. Government ministers are always looking to increase budgets, unless they are the Minister of Finance (who are natural misers with purse strings tighter than a fish's bum), because more money and bigger budgets mean they can do more.
Getting stuff cheaper means there is more money for pet projects, or to spread around coming up to an election. That is why KiwiRail buys trains from China and the army gets its uniforms offshore.
Bureaucrats and politicians are the only ones who divide tax up into buckets, guard their bucket jealously and continue to think in silos. The rest of us just know we pay our share of tax and do not differentiate between which agency our taxes fund by percentage.
In fact, we want public servants to think broad-mindedly about how and where our dollop of tax in spent. Spending money in one agency such as health — particularly mental health, education or welfare — may mean a huge saving in courts, probation, prisons, and post release.
"Million Dollar Murray" was a homeless man living rough and the subject of an audit of the cost to Government of doing nothing to help him live in a home and access all Government services he required to live a normal life. The cost ran into the millions in health care, justice spend, monitoring, welfare benefits and the like.
At close to $120,000 per prison bed per year, social investment in a child at risk has obvious financial savings for the taxpayer, let alone the moral obligation to deal with people well and as individuals rather than deal with them like commodities, in purely fiscal or economic ways. These are people, not bags of milk powder.
A $20,000 investment in a three-year-old will probably save $300,000 in 15 years. If we took a "Kiwi Saver" approach to the social sector, we would be investing heavily up the front end when children are little rather than await the inevitable heavy expense in the out years in programmes that have proven time and time again to fail.
Yesterday I met a person relating to me the predicament of Corrections struggling to keep prison numbers down. At the same time knowing rehabilitation programmes are rarely if ever offered in our highest-risk institutions like high security and maximum security. Nor are they offered to those on remand.
This can mean people leaving prison with no therapy to deal with the very issues that sent them to prison in the first place such as violence, drug and other substance abuse, sexual offending, brain injury, diagnosed mental health disorders, or a lack of literacy and numeracy.
It was estimated that only 30 per cent of people leaving prison have had any effective intervention towards rehabilitation. And these programmes may well be withheld from those most in need, based on safety concerns about the delivery of the programme to this class of offender.
But it bgs the question, "How safe is it to release people into the community after months or years in jail without therapy?"
One local doctor related to our team this week that in 15 years of practice in New Zealand he had never been contacted by Corrections for the medical notes of a patient.
Inmates with prescription medications are often deprived of that medication for some if not all their time in custody, and yet held under conditions that aggravate or reignite the very behaviours for which they were on that prescription medicine. Obviously, when a patient is released, the doctor never receives notes of what medical treatments have been provided to the patient in jail.
A consistent message from people on the front line of the social sector and in the justice area, is that siloed thinking by government agencies is not saving taxpayers money and is not safe for victims, offenders, communities or anybody else.
Chester Borrows served as Whanganui MP for 12 years and as a minister in the National Government.