After scrapping data-for-funding plan Government seeks consultation

As soon as the took over the Government Labour scrapped a data-for-funding plan, and they are now consulting on how it should use personal data to improve services.

Is this another case of acting first, consulting later?

RNZ: Govt calls for public’s views on social services

The government will consult with social service providers and the public on how best it can use personal data to improve services, it says.


Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said 1500 groups had been asked to take part.

“There will be 28 locations where the consultation will take place. Tomorrow the letters go out that will invite people to participate,” she said.

“It will include NGOs, it will include iwi, it will include iwi organisations, it will include service users.”

Consultation is generally a good thing, especially on something contentious like the use of personal data by the Government.

In November the new Labour-led government scrapped National’s controversial data-for-funding plan, calling it dangerous and unnecessary.

The plan would have required social service providers to hand over personal client details in exchange for funding.

I don’t know whether it was as bad as it sounds here – it could have been a form of coercion, but it could also simply have been a requirement to provide what the Government wanted in order to be eligible for funding.

More details here: Govt not trusted with NZer’s personal data – Minister

Many people do not trust the government to safeguard their personal data, Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni says.

Ms Sepuloni said the previous government’s attempt to demand personal information from welfare groups had undermined public confidence.

The data-for-funding model would have forced social agencies like Women’s Refuge to hand over names, birth dates and ethnicity of their vulnerable clients in return for funding.

That does sound questionable, especially with very vulnerable people involved.

Ms Sepuloni scrapped the data-for-funding proposal when she took office, but she said it caused a lot of damage.

“It was a failure and it caused a lot of distrust publicly and so it’s important that we have a discussion with the public, with the [non-governmental organisations] NGOs, with all of those affected on how we use information.”

She said government has a lot of work to do to regain the public’s confidence.

“There is general distrust with respect to how the government uses information and it’s important that we regain that trust … and how we can assure New Zealanders that their private information is protected,” she said.

But data can also be useful to determine the most effective ways of using funds.

Social Service Providers, which is an umbrella organisation of NGOs and community groups, welcomed the consultation announcement. Its national manager, Brenda Pilott, said it was a conversation New Zealanders needed to have.

“I think we need to be very cautious about sharing private information. I think most of the time the things that people are thinking about, such as what programmes are effective, information that you need for planning and for things like funding decisions, I believe most of the time you can get that information from just using anonymous data – you don’t need to know the name of the person.”

National via Paula Bennett has responded: Data working group will do little to help NZers

“Minister Sepuloni today said that the Government will work with the ‘social sector to develop a single shared set of rules and tools for the use and protection of personal information in the social sector’.

“National has already done that – it’s called the Data Futures Partnership, and it delivered a report on the use of data in August 2017. ‘A Path to Social Licence’ made a number of recommendations to help organisations work with data in a way that builds trust with individuals and the community.

“The report reflects what thousands of New Zealanders told us as we engaged with people across the country. Now, the Government wants to ignore that and restart the conversation – presumably because it didn’t tell the Government what it wanted to hear.

“The only explanation for the Government’s decision today to form yet another working group, after years of work on how we use and protect data, is because they fundamentally don’t believe data will make a difference to the delivery of social services.

National have been trying to hammer Labour over their prolific use of work groups and inquiries.

However if social agencies major problems with the data sharing requirements it is more important than political bickering.

There seems to be a clash of government and politics here.

Data is an important aspect of providing effective services and funding, but it can be a tricky balancing act when vulnerable people who are suspicious of the Government are involved.



  1. alloytoo

     /  May 8, 2018

    Bill English recognized the opportunity that new data analysis technologies presented in building a fit for purpose fence at the top of the cliff.

    Labour did their very best to undermine him to the detriment of many of the most vulnerable New Zealanders.

    Bill begged the incoming government to retain the tools developed and offer bi-partisan support on the issue.

    but Jacinda knew better…….

    • Blazer

       /  May 8, 2018

      National and English were just doing the usual…renaming something they only ever pay lip service to…form over substance…usual M.O .

  2. Gezza

     /  May 8, 2018

    National. Barking at every passing car! 😠 😀

    • David

       /  May 8, 2018

      There hasnt exactly been much to bark at yet, this government isnt quite of the drive yet its still consulting its sat nav on which route to take.

      • Gezza

         /  May 8, 2018

        Simon wasn’t even denting Jacinda in The House today. She was on form & in control.

        • David

           /  May 8, 2018

          I dont think he is really that interested in question time, cant blame him really with Mallard in charge and no one takes any notice.

          • Gezza

             /  May 8, 2018

            Labour getting more & more confident as the Budget next Thursday approaches.

  3. David

     /  May 8, 2018

    As a taxpayer I would like to know that my hard earned is going to social groups that get good outcomes, that benefits the recipients too. This was to stop the ludicrous situation where there was in one case 17 different agencies looking after a family with the inevitable poor outcome.
    Surely if taxpayers are funding support for a family we should surely know who they are, if they are being funded and show up at a womens refuge shouldnt the organisation supposedly looking after them know and be there to help ?
    Aside from holding the social sector accountable and therefore knowing who is a effective so their good outcomes can be spread and the ineffective ones improved or stopped what is the harm.

    • Blazer

       /  May 8, 2018

      As a taxpayer I want to know more about these landlords receiving the largesse of Govt accomodation benefits.
      Surely if taxpayers are funding support for a landlord we should surely know who they are, how they are being funded and how they are conducting their business.
      Aside from holding the social sector accountable and therefore knowing who is effective so their good outcomes can be spread and the ineffective ones improved or stopped what is the harm.

      • David

         /  May 8, 2018

        Suits me, anyone receiving anything from the government should be publicly available. I would put all government and council payments online and I would have every company registered in NZ publish their financials too and specify what revenue was received from the state.

        • alloytoo

           /  May 8, 2018

          Nonsense. No private individual/company offering their goods/service on the open market should need to make such information available? The compliance cost alone would be astronomical.

          Organisations which receive bulk funding are probably already declared by the state.

          This is a “BrightPenny” looking to infringe on the rights of law abiding companies and individuals to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

          • David

             /  May 8, 2018

            NZ is an outlier not requiring company accounts to be published, you have to file an annual return online its pretty easy to upload your accounts.
            In the UK and perhaps others companies have to declare revenue from government.
            Transparency is a great thing and Bright makes some good points, batshit crazy all the same.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  May 8, 2018

              The idea that funding might be handed out with no need to give details is a bit odd. This is taxpayer’s money, after all. The ethnicity would be so as to see if any groups are over-represented and enable something to be done about it.Why are X or Y such a high percent of refuge users ?

              I can’t see why organisations using public money should not have to provide some evidence of what it’s being used for.

              I would guess that my ‘private’ information is all on record somewhere, but can’t imagine anyone being that fascinated by reading it.

            • alloytoo

               /  May 8, 2018

              @Kitty Catkin

              I would submit there is a significant difference between “organisations using public money” and businesses supplying goods or services in an open market that may or may not include government.

  4. PartisanZ

     /  May 8, 2018

    Data-for-funding, it seems, may have been the essence of National’s ‘Social Investment Approach’ …?

    “There are really two different approaches under the government’s “social investment” banner. The “investment approach” used in the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children is based on calculating an estimate of the total “future fiscal liability” of every current welfare beneficiary: the probable future cost to the MSD’s budget …

    Future liability model dangerously flawed

    Policies are then designed to minimise that “future liability”. If helping a beneficiary reduces the liability – in other words reduces future government spending – it is good, otherwise it is bad.

    It is a dangerously flawed approach. It does not take into account the impact on the wellbeing of families relying on benefits to enable them to look after their children and themselves. It fails to take into account possible benefits to the economy of people having more time to retrain … It assumes that being pushed off the benefit is the same as finding a job – less than half of those leaving a benefit are in fact employed – and that the kinds of jobs they end up in are better than being on a benefit.

    It’s about cutting government expenditure, not making a better society”

    ” … most of it [The second form of ‘Social Investment’] is about much tighter criteria for social initiatives to get funding. This is a procurement strategy rather than an investment strategy.”

    • PartisanZ

       /  May 8, 2018

      For a Labour-led government some more consultation seems entirely appropriate to me.

    • David

       /  May 8, 2018

      It was pretty clear and articulated by English that it would cost more to help these chaotic families and improve the outcomes for some young NZers.
      Surely measuring outcomes is something the left would want otherwise they are just backers of do gooding organisations who have no clue if what they are doing is working. The left really need to focus on the clients and not the deliverers which was the whole point of English,s reforms.