Transformational change. Sounds positive, aspirational, worth doing. Driving it into existence is another story altogether. It doesn't happen overnight. How could it?
Transformational change means an organisation must change its underlying strategy, policies and processes. It has to be organisational wide and planned thoroughly. It's a quantum leap that's required not incremental change.
Good luck to the Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni. She pulled together a Welfare Advisory Group last year to look at the current welfare system, to see where improvements could be made.
Their conclusion, the system is "no longer fit for purpose". Has badly served those it is there to help. For many years successive governments have known this but have continued to compound problems for families rather than support them.
The scathing comprehensive review set out 42 recommendations. I know some of the advisory group and it is the chairwoman Professor Cindy Kiro who I trust.
She gives me confidence that the report, and its recommendations, are a plan of action that will work. I hope the Government will take it seriously.
Professor Kiro was a former Children's Commissioner and former head of the School of Public Health at Massey University. She knows how our welfare system has performed over many decades.
The realities too of welfare children. Children who live in homes where the parent or parents make do on a benefit. Children made vulnerable because of an inadequate, poor performing welfare system.
A punitive system that punishes parents for being unemployed, or unemployable, poorly educated, poorly housed and obviously not to be trusted. A welfare system that treats people as lazy, potential criminals, law-breakers and inherently selfish.
The 42 recommendations, if all implemented, would bring about long overdue changes to our social welfare system. They are wide-ranging and require a shift in the mindset of those who currently staff our social welfare offices.
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All good people but steeped in a culture that has created a class of people facing lives of insecurity. The recommendations include: restoring trust; reducing benefit debt and minimising welfare fraud; better interface with the justice sector; removal of sanctions; better resourcing of frontline staff, increased benefit payments, and recruiting 263 additional staff to usher in many of the changes.
Extra money, $286 million over the next four years, will need to be found to implement all recommendations.
I think this should be viewed as an investment rather than a cost. Over time this upfront investment should lessen as people start to move on from the tensions and frustrations of being on welfare. There will be longer-term savings for the Government as poverty reduces.
The minister should prompt other ministers of the Labour Coalition Government to sit down and read the welfare review.
Many of the recommendations require a whole of Government approach to making the quantum leap required for reform.
Education, housing, health, justice all have a role to play. In my opinion this will be one of the hardest jobs the minister will have.
To convince government department heads to step up. If they refuse to see they have a role to play in transforming the welfare system, then we can probably expect to have this same conversation again in 10 years' time. Nothing substantial will have changed.
As is usual whenever social welfare is being discussed we have "welfare experts" now coming out of the woodwork. They vilify the majority of recipients. From what I have seen and heard they haven't read the full report. It's only 200 pages.
They seem to forget or don't realise it was not those receiving a benefit who designed the crude, punitive system we have today.
That was done by clumsy policymakers and signed off by governments who were indifferent to the true impact of long term welfare dependency. Especially the impact on children. Over the years it would have been helpful to have heard from these "welfare experts" on occasions.
Raising their voices out of concern for the plight of their fellow New Zealanders.