The Maori Party's flagship policy is a step closer - but major details still have to be sorted out.
Expectations are high for what Whanau Ora will do for Maori and the effectiveness of Government spending on social services but questions remain about how exactly it will be funded and how non-Maori will benefit.
The flagship Maori Party policy for the provision of integrated, family-friendly social services moved a step closer with the release of the Whanau Ora Taskforce report yesterday - two months after it was presented to the Government.
Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia, who has driven the policy, was also confirmed as the minister in charge of implementing it.
Te Runanga o Ngati Whatua chairwoman Naida Glavish described the development of Whanau Ora, from its beginnings in community-based initiatives almost a decade ago, as "one of the most significant milestones in the history of Maori in this country since the signing of the Treaty".
Mrs Turia and Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said they welcomed the taskforce's report and said that while the policy had the potential to benefit Maori, the Government's stance was that it would be available "to all families in need".
Mr English said quite apart from the social aspirations around Whanau Ora, "we are also looking simply for better value for money".
"We spend hundreds of millions, several billions, on citizens who find life difficult for all sorts of reasons and who deserve support. However, we have very little idea whether that works.
"The principles of Whanau Ora are forcing Government to ask what in my view are the right questions and look for some hard answers."
The policy fitted with the Government's ongoing reshaping of social services over the past 12 months, partly driven by the recession and partly by the desire to rationalise the provision of them, Mr English said.
While there will be some initial extra set-up funding for the policy, the Government has maintained that its eventual cost - up to $1 billion a year, says Ms Turia - will be met by re-allocating money from other departments, initially health and social development. That will likely occur from the 2011 Budget onward.
Just exactly where and how much money would be reallocated had not been decided, said Mr English. "That's actually a pretty important issue which we haven't resolved."
Labour social development spokeswoman Ruth Dyson said that to fund Whanau Ora to the level suggested by Mrs Turia, "huge amounts of funding" would have to be diverted from existing programmes run by the police, health, Child, Youth and Family, social development and other agencies.
"Those agencies are not awash with spare cash they can hand over without noticing."
Compromise over the policy has already begun with the announcement of a Governance group to oversee it.
That cut across the taskforce's recommendation that this was a role best performed by an independent trust.
The group, which includes the heads of the Ministries of Health and of Social Development, will be led by the Maori Development Ministry Te Puni Kokiri and will report to Mrs Turia.
Mr English said the Government would respond to the report in a month, with further details of funding to be in the Budget.
The scheme would begin operating in a limited capacity at the start of the new financial year in July.
Ms Turia said 20 providers would be ready to offer services under the scheme by then but the decision on who those providers would be was yet to be made.
She indicated it was through these organisations - essentially rejigged existing Maori health and social services providers - that non-Maori would benefit.
She said about 40 per cent of clients of existing Maori health and social services organisations were non-Maori.
WHAT IS WHANAU ORA?
* "An inclusive approach to providing services and opportunities to families," according to information supplied by Whanau Ora Minister Tariana Turia yesterday.
* It "empowers families as a whole, rather than focusing separately on individual family members".
* In practical terms, it appears providers of Whanau Ora services will supply individuals to engage with families in need of help and act as a single point of contact between them and various government agencies.
* It is based on the belief expressed by Te Runanga o Ngati Whatua chairwoman Naida Glavish yesterday that "whanau need someone with a multiplicity of skills, not a multitude of people".