Bill English on ‘social investment’

In his ‘state of the nation’ speech Bill English explained how his ‘social investment’ approach was used to justify an increase in police numbers and resources.

As a politician and a member of the community I’ve seen lives turned around by quiet heroism in our families, schools and public services. I’ve also seen lives blighted by poor public services, bad decisions, neglect and bureaucratic inertia.

What this demonstrates is that good intentions do not, on their own, guarantee success. If all our social problems could be solved by throwing money at them, then we would have no more social problems because we’ve been throwing money at them for a long time.

What makes a difference to people’s lives is effective support. Until recently, identifying what genuinely helps people has been somewhat hit and miss, but today we’re able to analyse data in ways that didn’t exist a few years ago.

That analysis demonstrates the lifelong benefits of intervening early to help people in need and the lifelong costs of not doing so.

Some New Zealanders need ongoing support to help them lead a decent life. But there are many more who will benefit from smart, light-handed support. And then, they will move on.

Our goal is to help them do so.

Spending more public money is not, in itself, an achievement.

Real achievement is reducing welfare dependency, getting better results for our kids at school, preventing rheumatic fever, and reducing waiting times at hospital emergency departments.

We call our new approach social investment and it’s showing promising results in several areas, but the recent rise in the prison population confirms we’ve got more work to do.

That is why we are investing more in police.

This makes sense to me. Spending more taxpayer money in the short term can have longer term benefits, not just for the budget but also for New Zealand society.

A ‘social investment’ approach, which is effectively research based targeted spending, has it’s critics, but I think if it is done right it is hard to argue with.

UPDATE: a Dom Post editorial this morning is more sceptical – Bill English’s mixed bag

There are certainly still questions about “social investment”, including a new sort of technocratic over-confidence it seems to imply. Even English’s own measures need care: he brags about the diminished numbers of people on benefits, for instance, which might be evidence of a successful policy – or a merely punitive one. But it is at the very least an interesting, coherent approach to government spending. He should flesh it out with more convincing policies.

What’s not convincing about spending more on policing to reduce what are substantial financial and social costs of crime?

40 Comments

  1. PDB

     /  February 3, 2017

    More detail in an article from last year;

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/79078930/government-data-highway-could-change-vulnerable-kiwis-lives–bill-english

    A no-brainer for different govt agencies to be able to more easily share information in order to provide the very best outcomes for people.

  2. I’m in agreement with Chris Trotter on Social Investment, that its good at face value. This might be said of National’s Social Bonds policy too, although where these intersect – and trisect with privatisation – things become increasingly questionable IMHO.

    Trotter identifies one major issue as “the implementation of Social Investment policies will require a substantial increase in spending on the people National most loves to hate: the poor, the brown, and the “welfare-dependent” working-class.”

    The first way around this issue is for any spending to be as indirect as possible. “We’re not actually giving ‘these people’ any more money”. Police spending is largely to control this cohort of the population, apprehend them if they offend or reoffend and deliver them to the judicial and corrections systems; the latter particularly subject to Social Investment and privatisation ideologies.

    “The first [Social Bond funded scheme] was to be a programme to help people with mental health problems get into the workforce, and the plan was to put employment consultants in GP practices.” (RNZ).

    Very noble, well intentioned and good, at least initially, for the pockets of employment consultants.

    @ English ” … but the recent rise in the prison population confirms we’ve got more work to do.”

    Regrettably, a Social Investment-Privatisation-Social Bonds model for ‘corrections’ will inherently have contradictory values, objectives and goals. It desires to make more ‘profit’ from the money allocated to or invested in it and to do so demands more prisoners. The profit motive runs counter to the rehabilitation motive and, luckily, mere incarceration costs less as well.

    Meantime, indirect funding and the application of more ‘experts’ to Trotter’s “despised underclass” only further alienates them and assuredly feeds more people into the police, judicial and corrections systems … [the same may also apply to health?]

    English’s State-of-the-Nation ‘campaign promises’ also run counter to his assertions at Ratana that government has reached its welfare limits and that, in future, progress will come from communities working with the people they know …

    He should maybe back that up with some Social Investment?

    As for data sharing … It can be used for good or ill: wise, compassionate decision making or punitive control. All the really BAD totalitarian (‘socialist’) countries have (or had) pervasive systems of centralised surveillance and information sharing … as in “informers” …

    So it could be good, or it could be another step in the direction of inverted totalitarianism?

    http://www.treasury.govt.nz/statesector/socialinvestment

    http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.co.nz/2017/01/is-social-investment-bill-englishs.html

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/308026/government's-first-social-bond-collapses

    • Noel

       /  February 3, 2017

      Average profile for current prisoners suggests he will have come from a dysfunctional family possibly with abuse, from low income and have an undiagnosed mental condition.

      • Gezza

         /  February 3, 2017

        Dunedin Study supports this.

        • Next thing is intervention in advance based on profiling, surveillance and ‘information sharing’ all done by highly paid ‘experts’ … Then we’ll be able to call ourselves New Stasiland …

          • Gezza

             /  February 3, 2017

            Oh, absolutely. That name would be instantly voted for in a referendum. Good call. Intervention on the basis of profiling at the medical and social levels starting to happen already. It will be interesting to see if it produces any better results over time than the approaches that have so far failed to do so to date. Would be good if they could stop dicking around with relevant government agency restructurings for a while.

            Did you watch the Dunedin Study series PZ? The episode(s) on mental health & violent/criminal behaviour were quite a revelation.

            • No, I don’t watch TV Gezza … As someone on TV once famously said, “I prefer my own thoughts to the thoughts of others” …

              Seriously though, you have provided a link before and I can watch it ‘On Demand’ … Cheers.

              I wonder if anyone is willing to consider TINA – There Is No Alternative – in relation to this sort of stuff, e.g, that all the profiling and data sharing in the world might not change anything …

              If you want your neighbour to be a good neighbour, help him get rich?

              Just throwing ideas out wildly …

            • Gezza

               /  February 3, 2017

              “I wonder if anyone is willing to consider TINA – There Is No Alternative – in relation to this sort of stuff, e.g, that all the profiling and data sharing in the world might not change anything …”

              What NZ’s doing is attracting international attention & interest PZ. Because it hasn’t actually been done anywhere to this extent before. Suck it & see. Give it a go. Very kiwi, actually, when you think about it.

            • Yeah, maybe … We were called the world’s ‘social laboratory’ back when we were getting Rogered and Ruthanased too, ’84 – ’96, and were certainly the world’s envied ‘Social Security’ laboratory 1935 – 80 …

              But you don’t hear the Think Tanks saying “suck it up and see” or “give it a go” do you? No DIY No 8 wire mentality left there? Things don’t even get a public airing without mountains of data and hard evidence, feasability studies, and prescribed orthodoxy of outcomes … all formulated by highly paid experts and consultants …

              Do we ever ask the people whose lives are directly affected?

            • PDB

               /  February 3, 2017

              PZ: “Do we ever ask the people whose lives are directly affected?”

              Yep – it’s called the general election, happens every three years.

            • Nah PDB … You’re dreaming …

              Any substantial investigation into poverty, inequality, iniquity and prejudice etc etc what you’ll find is ‘a panel of professionals, policy-makers, advisors, consultants and experts’ et al … Almost never those directly affected …

              Everyone’s afraid the poor will simply ask for more money, so they don’t request their input …

              It’s the residual ‘Master-Slave’ relationship expressing itself in our society IMHO. There’s an element of this in politics too, especially general elections …

            • Gezza

               /  February 3, 2017

              “Do we ever ask the people whose lives are directly affected?”
              The Dunedin Study did & still does.

            • Do the ‘subjects’ inform policy Gezza? I suspect not, other than by recording their opinions and being observed by experts …

              When it comes to policy formulation, I hazard a guess it will be the experts who get asked …?

            • Gezza

               /  February 4, 2017

              I don’t know who you think the ‘experts’ are. Those making policy will be people given responsibility for making policy, usually public servants – or people like Paula Rebstock, putting together teams of people with some experience in related fields, & drawing on data & experience in the areas concerned. Government policy isn’t made in a vacuum. It is also unlikely to ever be made by trying to survey everybody & meet everybody’s individual wishes & preferences.

            • Okay, I can’t explain it, certainly not as will make sense to anyone with OCD about controlling the purse-strings, which is what our present ‘paradigm’ is constructed upon (I genuinely don’t mean you personally Gezza) … Here’s a scenario …

              Premise – a particular community of say 200 people is entitled to $2m social investment funding to reduce poverty, build sense-of-belonging & participation, create training opportunities and employment. There are goals or ‘desired outcomes’ and the expenditure itself is not in question.

              Okay, rather than investing say $2m in experts & consultants reports and feasability studies and then highly paid ‘remote’ experts mentoring this community via some distant or newly established branch of the Trustocracy, the money is instead offered directly to an already established Trust within this community and the community is allowed to work it out for itself …?

              Public funding generally doesn’t work like this (and of course it won’t do for absolutely everyone). Instead it operates on a model of “We the experts know what’s good for you, the beneficiaries of our expertise. These are the [often impossible] hoops you’ll have to jump through to make our investment in you fit our investment model … etc etc …”

      • @ Noel – “Average profile for current prisoners suggests he will have come from a dysfunctional family possibly with abuse, from low income and have an undiagnosed mental condition.”

        Faced with this ‘data’, what would a rational person or society do?

        1) Tackle dysfunctional families before abuse happens if possible, or at the first signs of abuse if not. Make positive parenting, couples and family counselling services highly visible, readily available and destigmatised …
        2) Erradicate low income …
        3) Demystify mental illness and make diagnosis and treatment readily available …

        To any significant degree, what has policing got to do with this? Let alone prosecution and incarceration?

  3. I consider the concept of “Social Investment” is worth at least investigation as to precisely what English et al mean by the expression. (So that it does not become merely a slogan for 2017.) If it means that, we the taxpayers are being invited to invest our taxes into areas of social change that have been tested for their efficacy, and are subject to factual auditing of their effectiveness using ISO standards for testing, then I could support the concept as I think it is.

  4. patupaiarehe

     /  February 3, 2017

    ‘Investing’ more money in Police isn’t what I consider ‘Social Investment’. It just means that there will be a few more ambulances at the bottom of the cliff.
    Real ‘social investment’ involves helping people better themselves, rather than arresting them when they screw up, due to drinking too much, to try & drown the pain of having no hope.
    Perhaps we should be investing a bit more in trade training, rather than importing tradies. Educate the unemployed on how much better off they could be, with a little training, then offer them free training.
    A grand in the hand a week, is more than a whole months dole. This sort of pay packet is easily achievable, by someone who can weld, has their ‘2980 ticket’, and is willing to work 48 hours/week, with no weekend work involved (unless they want to earn even more)
    All they have to do is turn up every day, and do what they are asked to…

  5. The investment in policing is welcomed and necessary.

    But in reality Policing is a red herring in the context of what Social Investment is trying to achieve – which is targeted EXTRA assistance in wrap around services seeking to break inter-generational cycles of underachievement leading to despair and poverty traps.

    The unfortunate thing is it will need a good 10-15 years to show real sustainable benefits – and because its “filthy Tory” policy it will get deep 6’ed when Labour is next on the Treasury benches.

    Social sector NGO’s are really interested in this – will Labour and the Greens do the right thing and work with National to make it work ?

    • @ dave1924 – “But in reality Policing is a red herring in the context of what Social Investment is trying to achieve …”

      That must be why PG says, first line – “In his ‘state of the nation’ speech Bill English explained how his ‘social investment’ approach was USED TO JUSTIFY an increase in police numbers and resources.” [caps mine]

      That looks more like a giant Blue Herring to me dave …

      “The only way English will be able to “sell” his Social Investment policy to the National caucus, therefore, is by showering resources on the tiny number of people fingered by the State’s data-crunching algorithms, while simultaneously reducing assistance to all the other beneficiaries on its books.” – Chris Trotter

      Look to National to sabotage it themselves rather than predict what Labour and the dastardly socialist ‘Left’ will do …

      http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.co.nz/2017/01/is-social-investment-bill-englishs.html

      It appears something has already gone wrong with Social Bonds?

      http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/308026/government's-first-social-bond-collapses

      And maybe spare some EXTRA assistance for wrap around services seeking to break inter-generational cycles of systemic misconception, stratification, injustice and coercion leading to despair and poverty traps …?

      • PDB

         /  February 3, 2017

        Trotters bitterness, agenda and nonsense is summed up in this statement: “English’s problem is that the implementation of Social Investment policies will require a substantial increase in spending on the people National most loves to hate: the poor, the brown, and the “welfare-dependent” working-class”.

        Considering National has done more for these people then the previous Clark govt I’d hate to think what she says about her……well targeted social funding is what National are promoting rather than the failed decades-old scattergun approach that the left continue to promote. Increasing police numbers is only one part of the puzzle, dealing with one end of the problem that is a quick fix compared with trying to turn around decades of family dysfunction, welfare dependence, sense of entitlement and social engineering.

        • patupaiarehe

           /  February 3, 2017

          Increasing police numbers is only one part of the puzzle, dealing with one end of the problem that is a quick fix compared with trying to turn around decades of family dysfunction, welfare dependence, sense of entitlement and social engineering.

          Increasing police numbers, IMHO, is addressing the results, not the problem. Showing the next generation how to ‘escape the trap’, is a far better ‘investment’…

      • YAAAAWWWWNNNNN…. what ever Parti. Quoting “I see Nazis” Trotter is not exactly backing up what ever argument you are trying to make…

        • dave1294, let’s analyse your comment …

          Derisive sound + derogatory name: Ad hom. Godwin. Failure to comprehend or even try to …

          Hmmmm … I shouldn’t have bothered …

          • patupaiarehe

             /  February 3, 2017

            But you did PZ, nice to know that you care…

            • Just sharing my ‘process’ patupaiarehe …

              I do care, believe it or not.
              I don’t want my descendants ruled by people like dave …

              Their way is like a modern form of the old mine shaft or tunnel, the new pit, with long hours of non-unionised ‘mortgagee’ indentured labour, followed by shopping for groceries and consumer goods from a contemporary form of the company store, the latest ‘free enterprise’ manifestation of the Truck system …

              Their power will once again be ‘the machine’, the old rock-crusher, conveyor belt and blast furnace replaced by computers and robots which, although capable of making life indescribably more leisurely for mankind, of supplying everyones’ needs, instead imprison us in a digital-bio-mechanical slavery of excessive want, want and more want …

              I want my descendants to dance in the sunshine and feel the rain patu, metaphorically speaking … to know the earth, the trees and plants, animals, birds, the big sky, the music of the spheres … their minds, hearts, bodies, creativity and life-direction truly forged in freedom …

              Perhaps some salutary hours of self-chosen, variety filled work to maintain their community and standard of living – to which they may choose to apply all known standards of ‘professionalism’ – but most of their time spent in joyous freedom, fulfilling dreams of indivisable work-&-play we have yet to even imagine …

            • This, IMVHO, is what we should be investing in socially …

            • patupaiarehe

               /  February 3, 2017

              If you want that for your descendants PZ, you’d best be encouraging them to ‘equip’ themselves with useful skills..

            • Yes, that’s exactly what I do, as I did for myself …

              Useful expertise for such a future, while it may involve skills for paid employment – while this archaic convention lasts – will also include the many skills of being a social change agent: critical thinking guided by balanced EQ, highly adaptable, extremely spontaneous and creative …

            • patupaiarehe

               /  February 4, 2017

              I try to do the same for mine, PZ. Teach them a whole lot of random stuff, that comes up every day. All of my 3 eldest boys know how to do an oil & filter change on a car, & the older two know how to change brake pads, without having to ‘bleed’ the brakes…

            • … Huh! Didn’t actually mean to imply I was any of those things …

              The human being of my distant future may be a different creature altogether … Homo Ethicus …

            • patupaiarehe

               /  February 4, 2017

              ‘Homo Ethicus’??!!! Maybe in a perfect world, PZ! Get some sleep, e hoa…

          • Lets analyse your last 105 comments….. ad hom, resort to “racism”, fiire economy, terrible Tories, …. etc etc etc etc .

            You’re presented with probably one of the top 5 socialist ideas of all time in NZ – Social Investment a concept rooted in the premise of EQUALISING OPPORTUNITY by identifying those at the highest risk of having horrible, grubbing, mean, violent lives with prolonged spells of abuse and probably imprisonment – and you quote Chris Trotters critique? A guy who is just pissed off that a concept that his beloved Labour should have adopted 30 years but have been too busy just randomly throwing money at people and getting nowhere in EQUALISING OPPORTUNITY? [I read his blog post on Social Investment a while ago and that is what I lifted from the short essay, and tagging him as “I see Nazis” is not unfair as he is constantly seeing fascism everywhere when it just isn’t there.]

            And you wonder why I give you a little brush off?

            This a policy the Left should grab with both hands – National may live to regret introducing from a political standpoint because of its use as a wedge phrase to justify more and more redistribution, when Nationals intent is to get people off benefits into a self sufficient life where the have the OPPORTUNITY, not guarantee, of a life above the mean, nasty experience too in NZ, the land of milk and honey, many endure. Its all about breaking inter-generational problems….

            And yes, extra policing under the Social investment banner is a wee bit of a red herring [in the traditional sense of the phrase i.e. nothing to do with Party Political colours] as the main thrust of Social Investment is overwhelmingly a POSITIVE intervention. Its just a necessary input to control the feral eff wits in our society who think they live in american ghettos so should be gangsters…

            • I’ll call racism where I see it dave, just like you call “boring” or “feral eff wits” or “I see Nazis” … Its just a descriptive word meaning “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior” – as distinct from racial difference, a term without a value judgment.

              I didn’t invent the term FIIRE economy. As I understand it Jane Kelsey coined FIRE economy and myself and Blazer refined it on here to include Immigration, very obviously one of its pillars along with Finance, Insurance & Real Estate.

              Never “terrible Tories” dave, that’s you projecting. I’m not going to pull punches though. I perceive a very dangerous element of the Right in places like KFL, NZCPR and ‘Hobson’s Pledge’ and I reserve the right to call them ‘The Right Brigade’, Righties, Moonies, neoliberals and whatever else I choose … a bit the obverse of your own despised ‘socialists’ and ‘The Left’ and Unionists …

              Nicknames are okay and I can effortlessly handle your “little brush-offs”.

              I haven’t actually said I disagree wholesale with Social Investment and I certainly don’t disagree with equalizing opportunity. Quote me if you find it. I said, “that its good at face value”. I said “It [data sharing, profiling etc] can be used for good or ill: wise, compassionate decision making or punitive control” and I said (or asked) “it could be good, or it could be another step in the direction of inverted totalitarianism?” That’s a question dave.

              This isn’t a policy that everybody should “grab with both hands” dave, IMHO. You say this frequently. Labour should “get on board” and “work with the government”. Then you decry the lack of a credible opposition.

              Anyhow, “grab with both hands” firstly implies that it can’t be improved upon. Secondly, you fail to recognise that its ‘political’, although in the next breath acknowledge that it is political because Policing comes first. National and Bill English pooled Policing with Social Investment, which plainly makes it Social Investment …

              ” … the main thrust of Social Investment is overwhelmingly a POSITIVE intervention.”

              I wish that were true dave. I genuinely hope it is true. All I can say with certainty at this point is; the main thrust of Social Investment is overwhelmingly a VOTE WINNING intervention.

              This is ‘true’ of everything political and is a glaring, monumental, cancerous, disabling weakness in our so-called ‘democratic’ system. We could, of course, democratically agree to take certain political footballs off the [level] playing field, couldn’t we? But do we, EVER!? No. No, we do not. I wonder why …?

              I know (or sense) you can’t understand this dave, but I’m also asking a simple question: IF there is an inter-generational problem with the individual-family-ethnicity ‘victims’ [and their ‘enablers’] might there also be an inter-generational problem with the organisational, collective or societal ‘perpetrators’ [and their enablers] …?

              Do not expect me to EVER stop asking …

            • “problem with the organisational, collective or societal ‘perpetrators’” Really? Again?

              Seriously?

              This is a family/whanau based thing PnZ. No one is oppressing anyone. Its a fallacy put about to excuse mostly personal failings.

              Social workers and their enablers constantly telling people its not your fault, when the misfortune is not the result of bad luck, just reinforces the attitude of not trying because you cant possible win.

              This country provides free healthcare, free education up to secondary school level and heavily subsidised tertiary education, it has a welfare safety including housing that is the envy of a big chunk of the world… the base for progress is there – and it costs roughly 60 Billion dollars, growing every single year, of nz taxpayers dosh

              The excuses put about for abusing your family and creating inter-generational problems need to stop. I hear “there are no jobs here…” well bloody move. And yes it cna be done and yes if it means being away from the family till you can afford to move them as well – such is the price of life. People have done for centuries. Migrants do now all the bloody time? Why can’t an unemployed person move from the Far North to Southland and take a job labouring on a dairy farm?

              As for Jane Kelsey…… nah no poin

  6. PatuP… I totally support the trade training suggestion. However it should be within an institution like the NZ Army Regular Cadet School where in addition to trade training, other life skills like budgeting, self-discipline, working as part of a team, how to keep fit, how to handle booze rather than it handling you, respect for the older generations who have achieved and contributed to society as a whole, plus learning what mana actually means and all of the other things about living a life that contributes rather than becomes destructive.

    • patupaiarehe

       /  February 3, 2017

      That approach will work for some BJ, but not others. Some folk (such as myself) will resist being told what to do, & fight it all the way. Some folk need strict instruction, & benefit from it, while others won’t do anything, unless they think it was their idea to do so…
      Both types of people, could certainly benefit from trade training. And they could all benefit from learning to appreciate what their elders have done for them.

      • Fine Patup… I would hope to persuade you to follow a path you were happy with and that uses your God given talents for the benefit of yourself and those around you. There is a different way of approaching these things you now.