Families-based social services initiative Whanau Ora will receive $134.3 million in funding over the next four years, Prime Minister John Key announced today.

Mr Key said the $134m would increase and did not include current contracts.

The Minister in charge of Whanau Ora, Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia, told a media conference in Wellington that the $134 million would cover the cost of "building provider capability", training staff and research.

"This is not about money but about transforming attitudes in families," Mrs Turia said.

She said a Whanau Ora navigator would sit down with families and work out what problems they faced and then set about helping the family access help.

"We have lots of families who have great difficulty navigating the system ... It is not easy to do and not many people take it up," Mrs Turia said.

She said the navigators would try to help families learn to look after themselves.

Mrs Turia said the Whanau Ora programme would use existing money in budgets to target social issues at the family level, rather than focussing on the individual.

"This is a new approach and it will take time, but everyday I get feedback that this is the way forward for families who want to regain control of their future."

She said the Whanau Ora programme was a move away from bureaucratic check lists and would be held accountable.

"The family determines what the achievements are. What we are trying to do is get the family to take responsibility," Mrs Turia said.

"To engage the family give, them self belief and provide them with the right tools, that's where we will see the change," she said.

Twenty providers would be selected to implement the policy, with expressions of interest being called for next month.

Whanau Ora is a Maori Party flagship policy designed to give a major shake-up to the welfare system.

It is intended to improving efficiency of social services by lessening replication, and improving co-ordination between providers.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the programme was a "real change" in how social services were provided to those in need.

"Many non-government organisations within our communities are already operating in line with the Whanau Ora philosophy, now the Government is simply backing them to do what they do best," she said.

Whanau Ora has been called the biggest shake up of the welfare system for decades.

A Whanau Ora taskforce in February said despite billions of dollars being poured into social services, Maori still had lower standards of health and education, and higher rates of criminal offending and inter-generational unemployment.

The taskforce suggested money currently spent by health, education, justice and social development agencies be pooled into a Whanau Ora trust.

This trust would in turn set up regional panels that would fund a single agency or person to work with families facing problems.

The taskforce argued that the current system dealt with an individual's problems, with sometimes multiple agencies dealing with the same person, and the system would work better if there was one agency focusing on an entire whanau's problems, either directly as provider or as a broker for other services.

The document envisaged these Whanau Ora providers giving a wide range of services including employment advice, family welfare counselling, family re-union assistance, and economic development and cultural advice.

The Government has previously said Whanau Ora would be financially neutral and paid for by re-prioritising existing funding in health, social development and Maori affairs budgets.

The Whanau Ora governance group will include three members of the taskforce; Rob Cooper, who chairs a Maori health provider, Professor Sir Mason Durie, who chaired the taskforce and Nancy Tuaine who is on the Whanganui District Health Board.

Also in the group were Te Puni Kokiri chief executive Leith Comer, Ministry of Social Development chief executive Peter Hughes, and Health Ministry director general Stephen McKernan.

- NZHERALD STAFF