Bill English's approach to helping New Zealand's most vulnerable is based on targeted spending to ultimately save money - and that is a logical approach, says Castlecliff Community Charitable Trust community developer Des Warahi.

He was one of about 30 people from non-government organisations who listened to the deputy Prime Minister in Wanganui on Friday. Whanganui MP Chester Borrows had invited Mr English to speak to not-for-profit social service providers after hearing how Jigsaw Whanganui found itself unexpectedly short of funds.

Mr English told the group, and later members of the Whanganui Chamber of Commerce, his National-led government was changing the way social services were funded.

He said it was the "weakest, most vulnerable people with the most chaotic lives" that cost the country billions in social service provision.


Government wanted social services directed toward them.

"Don't even make a bid unless it's about the hardest 2 per cent of families, because that's where we need to make a difference."

Mr Warahi said this financial emphasis had become stronger over the past five years. The challenge for providers was to translate the needs of their clients into "government speak", and interpret government policy to find "the best bang" for people who needed help.

"The challenge for us is to translate that policy into real world stuff."

He said it was easier for big providers to handle that administrative side, and small groups might need to combine resources to cope with it.

"I want to see small ones still get the money, because the small ones do some awesome things."

He said a group like Jigsaw Whanganui, which oversees social workers in schools, could act as lead organisation working with a family, and pass some of the funding on to other groups working with the same family.

That was the Whanau Ora concept, and Mr Warahi believed it was right.


Mr English did refer to Whanau Ora in his speech last week.

"We don't quite know how that's going to develop but because it makes sense we're going to pursue it," Mr English said.