Ardern supports closure of Roxburgh vulnerable children facility

A care facility for vulnerable children and a regional town have taken a hit with the announced closure of the Roxburgh care facility for vulnerable children, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seems to support this.

ODT: ‘Huge blow’ for Roxburgh as Stand confirms closure of children’s village

The closure of the Roxburgh village for vulnerable children has been described as ”desperately sad”.

Yesterday, Stand Children’s Services announced its children’s villages in Roxburgh and Otaki would close.

It would mean the loss of 31 jobs in Roxburgh, about 6% of its population of about 520.

Stand chief executive Dr Fiona Inkpen said the organisation had been topping up the shortfall in government funding from its own funds for many years but reserves were used up and the organisation would need an extra $3million to keep the villages open.

Dr Inkpen confirmed southern children would be unable to attend the only other South Island Stand village, in Christchurch, as the waiting list was long and only Canterbury children could stay there.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said it was a ”desperately sad” day for the children of the lower South Island.

”Even though I anticipated this news coming today, I still feel physically sick reading it. I’ve got to admit that when we got all the way to the top [Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern] last week, and got turned down, I didn’t see how the village could be saved.”

The Prime Minister can’t intervene in every funding decision and every care facility, but she appears to be indifferent to the closure. The issue was raised in Parliament yesterday:

9. Hon ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister for Children: Does she stand by her statement in relation to childcare services that “We need to know who the kids are; what places are best going to meet their needs; and then match them”?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development) on behalf of the Minister for Children: Yes. Those comments were made in relation to care placements. Obviously, the better we can match carers and children, the better the outcomes. What we know is that strong, stable, and loving relationships are key for children. Going forward, we also need to design and purchase services that work best for children and will best meet their needs.

Hon Alfred Ngaro: Does she agree with the Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan and Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan about Stand Children’s Services in Roxburgh meeting the children’s needs and, I quote, that they did “utterly critical work, … no other agencies provided the intensive, residential, wrap-around service[s] the Roxburgh facility provided for children who had experienced … trauma.”?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: The mayor’s comments that are made in relation to Stand are made almost on the premise that funding has been cut. I need to assure this House that Stand is still receiving $20 million each year to provide intensive wraparound services to children and their families—the same amount of funding that was received under the previous Government. Stand, though, has decided to close two of their villages—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: You’re shutting them down.

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Stand has decided to close two of their villages. These villages have nine intakes per year with a maximum of 21 children per intake. The Minister has directed the chief executive of Oranga Tamariki—Ministry for Children to track the 21 children at any given time that would normally be referred to the village. The chief executive of Oranga Tamariki will ensure that any additional support that is required is made available to these children.

Hon Jacqui Dean: If her Government’s aim is about looking after vulnerable children, what service provider will replace the only facility in the whole of the lower South Island providing intensive, residential treatment for traumatised children and their families to best meet their needs?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Oranga Tamariki has given assurances that the children will still receive the services they need through the ministry and through a range of other providers, including Stand, Anglican Family Care, Mirror Services, and Presbyterian Support Otago. That network of services is made up of competent, professional providers who are already moving towards more integrated ways of working across the child well-being, health, and education sectors in the region.

Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern: Can the Minister confirm that at any given time in Roxburgh there are roughly 21 children utilising this service and that therefore, by necessity, there are a range of other services available through the country to meet the kinds of needs Stand meets in just seven current facilities?

Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: I can absolutely assure the House, on behalf of the Minister, that that is the case. There are other services providing the types of wraparound and therapeutical support that those two villages were providing, as well as there are still seven existing villages, I understand, that continue to operate and provide that therapeutical support.

Ardern seems to have washed her hands of this, feeding her Minister Sepuloni with a patsy question to help her dismiss the concerns of the people of Roxburgh, Central Otago and the lower South Island.

The care facility predecessor, the Roxburgh Health Camp, was opened on 6 November 1941 see Camp part of tradition going back to 1919

 

30% increase in funding for family violence services

One pre-budget announcement, a 30% increase in funding for family violence services, is long overdue.In dollar terms it isn’t a lot, but it is critical that much more is done to reduce both family violence and the effects of family violence.

I think it is one thing that was genuinely neglected by the National led government.

Significant funding boost for family violence services

Social services dealing most directly with the harm caused by family violence will get much needed support as the Government boosts funding to front line agencies for the first time in ten years.

“Nearly half of those receiving the increase are women’s refuges who provide vital support keeping women and children safe,” said Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni.

“The 30 percent increase in funding is critical to the Government’s efforts to begin to turn around New Zealand’s tragic family violence record.

“Additional funding in 2019/20 will enable these critical front line agencies to expand into areas where there isn’t currently any support or start addressing over demand in existing services.

“Family violence has a damaging, yet often hidden, impact on victims’ lives including their ability to work and lead a normal life,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

Through Budget 2018, the Government is allocating an additional $76.157 million over four years to support the delivery of Ministry of Social Development-funded family violence services for victims, perpetrators and their families.

Carmel Sepuloni said, “This funding will provide a boost to around 150 providers of family violence services nationwide.”

This has benefits across portfolios.

 Jan Logie, Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice on Domestic and Sexual Violence Issues, also welcomed the new funding.

“This funding is an important first step, supporting organisations which do vital work but have been stretched to breaking point,” Jan Logie said.

“As we get started on the broader work of challenging and responding to family and sexual violence, it’s crucial that victims and their families are able to get the support they need now. Because they can’t wait.”

Minister for Children Tracey Martin said Budget 2018 funding would have an impact right across New Zealand.

“The announcement delivers on the Coalition Agreement between Labour and New Zealand First to increase funding in this area,” Tracey Martin said.

Family violence feeds general societal violence, so it is critical it is reduced and dealt with more effectively.

I don’t care whether this funding was promised during the campaign, negotiated when the Government was put together, or has come later. Better funding to address awful amounts of family violence is something that had to happen.

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.

 

The Nation: welfare, social investment and poverty

This morning on The Nation :

What’s the best way to provide for those who need help? and talk welfare, social investment and child poverty.

These are two MPs not generally to the forefront of election campaigning. Tolley is 11th on National’s list, Sepuloni is 8th on Labour’s. Both are electorate MPs.


Tolley talking about what the Government has been doing to improve help for beneficiaries, and what is planned to happen in April next year through their Families Package.

Sepuloni is doing little more than reciting Labour’s election lines, in line with what Ardern and others recite. Some of them quite are quite misleading.

The main points from al of the panel – Lisa Owen, Patrick Gower, Fran O’Sullivan and Sue Bradford – was the vagueness and stark lack of policy on welfare from a quite likely incoming Government led by Labour. Fairly scathing from all of them.

Resistance to inquiry into forced adoptions

The pressure on young women and girls to give up their babies for adoption, effectively forcing them, was awful, albeit in a different social age (our society has changed hugely since the 1960s).

The petitioner Maggie Wilkinson, and Green and Labour MPs are complaining after National voted against an inquiry at a parliamentary committee.

Newstalk ZB: Government accused of shutting down calls for formal inquiry into forced adoption

Waihi woman Maggie Wilkinson, whose just-born child was taken away from her at age 20 fifty years ago, started a petition urging an inquiry into institutional abuses.

Wilkinson says unmarried women at the time weren’t even allowed access to contraception. They were naive, and taken advantage of by the state.

“It was a great opportunity to take our children and give them to married people who had either missed the boat in having a family, because of war, etcetera,” she said. “It was a supply.”

Although Wilkinson’s petition was rejected by the parliamentary committee, she’s refusing to listen to those who say she should just “get over it.”

“I can’t [get over it] because there are women like me who are still alive and there are some women who died without holding their child, without seeing their child,” she said.

It was a horrible thing inflicted on mothers, and on the babies regardless of what there adopted life was like.

Green MP Jan Logie…

…isn’t happy the government MPs who have dismissed the matter out of hand, and is critical of their view that times and practices have changed.

“That is an argument in terms of dismissing it, [and] robs all of us in this country of an opportunity of understanding and giving those women some closure,” Logie said.

Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni…

…believes holding an inquiry is important, and she believes the same mistakes could happen again if citizens don’t reflect on and learn from the past.

“So many women, and broader families as well, were impacted by this, and so they deserve to have their experience recognised.”

In Australia…

…a Senate inquiry was held and then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard made a historic national apology in 2013 to women similarly affected.

The Senate committee report found unwed mothers were pressured, deceived and threatened to give up their babies, so they could be adopted by married couples.

Much like in New Zealand. It was perpetuated by the State but family of the mothers were also complicit, trying to avoid social embarrassment.

Newshub: Tearful calls for forced adoption inquiry rejected

Women who sat in tears sharing their stories of being made to give up their babies through forced adoption have been refused an inquiry into the practice.

Parliament’s social services committee has rejected a petition by Maggie Wilkinson who called for a full investigation into the practice, which saw hundreds of children put up for adoption between the 1950s and 1990s against their mothers’ wishes.

In a report from the committee, tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the committee acknowledged the “pain and suffering” women like Mrs Wilkinson and their children went through, but a majority found an inquiry wasn’t the best way to deal with the issue.

“Although we do not agree with many adoption practices from the 1950s to the 1980s, we note that these practices reflected the social values and attitudes of the time,” the majority found.

“We cannot undo what has been done before but we can stop the denial and silence and support people to move forward,” Ms Logie’s Green Party minority view says.

In their statement the party hit out at evidence presented to the committee by the Ministry of Vulnerable Children, which did not address the specific questions presented by Mrs Wilkinson and her backers, who also disputed parts of the official evidence.

They’re backing a broad and full inquiry and an apology.

The Labour Party also backs ongoing calls for an investigation.

“We moved a motion at select committee for an inquiry to be carried out; however, unfortunately this was costed down by the Government members of the committee,” the Labour minority view in the report says.

The first calls for an inquiry were to former National MP Trevor Rogers in 1992.

That’s a bit ironic.

The current National Government seems to be averse to inquiries into past injustices. They have also avoided an investigation into mental health abuses.

MPs on the Social Services Committee:

SocialServicesCommittee

 

Labour now oppose treaty settlement

Labour had initially supported a Bill that would release a public reserve in Auckland for housing and would also help settle a Treaty of Waitangi claim. But they are now opposing it, to the disappointment of Auckland.

It makes things awkward for Labour’s Maori MPs – Andrew Little recently claimed “Māori will be better served by a strong Labour Māori voice”.

Phil Twyford on Twitter today:

NZ Herald: Pt England reserve housing development opposed by Labour as ‘land grab’

When Labour supported the enabling legislation at its first reading in December its Tamaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare said he was “extremely excited” about the opportunity for Ngati Paoa.

And Labour’s Kelston MP Carmel Sepuloni said the party supported the bill because “we will support any piece of legislation that is going to be about building more affordable homes in Auckland”.

“It does not make sense to use prime land for grazing cows when it could be used for affordable housing,” Sepuloni said.

However, in a press release today Twyford said the legislation was a “land grab” that flew in the face of the local community’s wishes.

“The Minister seems to think because some of the land has cows grazing on it, it’s fair game to take it for housing. The community needs this land for future generations. Once it is sold for housing it will be permanently lost to the public.”

Does anyone in Labour communicate?

Labour’s opposition has disappointed Ngati Paoa, who said without the land there would be no Treaty settlement between it and the Crown.

“By opposing the legislation Labour is opposing a Treaty settlement bill – for the first time in the history of the Treaty settlement process,” said Hauauru Rawiri, chief executive of Ngati Paoa Iwi Trust.

“All other iwi in Tamaki Makaurau support this transfer. Opposing the Bill pits the Labour Party against mana whenua of Auckland.”

Rawiri said he urged Labour’s Maori MPs to lobby colleagues on the issue and vote against their party if necessary.

That’s the Labour Maori MPs that Little was talking about in this press release on the Labour Party website:

“If Māori want to see progress on the problems they face in housing, health and education, then they should back their Labour candidate.

“We have a plan to turn the position of Māori around and we’ll be running a campaign to show how Māori will be better served by a strong Labour Māori voice around the Cabinet table.”

Who’s running Labour, Little or Twyford?

Will the Labour Maori MPs back the Auckland Iwi?

Twyford is leading Labour’s election campaign in Auckland. This puts party support at risk in Auckland electorates as well as Maori electorates.

Members’ bills

Three new Members’ bills were drawn today.

Carmel Sepuloni’s Social Security (Pathway to Work) Amendment Bill

This bill removes the disincentives to engage in part-time work by lifting the threshold of how much persons can earn before their benefit is reduced by abatement rates.

Dr Russel Norman’s Climate Change (Divestment from Fossil Fuels) Bill

This Bill will direct public fund managers to divest from companies directly involved in the exploration, mining, and production of fossil fuels

Clare Curran’s Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Amendment Bill

This bill amends the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013, establishing a Technical Advisory Board to which matters must be referred in instances where the Minister will be required to exercise his or her discretion or prescribe an additional area of specified security interest.

Prentice admits “fighting dirty politics”

In what appears to be a case of blatantly ignoring a High Court interim injunction Lynn Prentice has also stated that this is a way of fighting dirty politics without his hands tied.

Likely. As I have no idea who it is, So to conform to the reported suppression, I will just limit people saying explicitly which minister it is.

I also note that there has been nothing reported about the alleged victims seeking suppression.

Mind you, after the questions on how Carmel’s mothers name got into media, I am only inclined to follow the letter of suppression orders when it comes to the politically associated.

If it is good enough for Paula Bennett to play games with the courts and relatives, then I can’t be bothered fighting dirty politics with my hands tied….

So this an all out dirty war? Prentice may claim to be fighting against dirty politics but this looks just about as dirty as anything.

He could understandably be agitated by Rachinger’s ‘paid to hack The Standard’ claim but I think he’s taking a big risk here. He may follow Cameron Slater’s example of court trouble through breaching suppression just to be vindictive – another Slater trait shared.

(I have seen claims that Bennett may have fed a story to the media but I haven’t seen any evidence of it).

Silence on the Sepuloni case

Last week (25 February) it was announced that charges had been laid against the mother Labour’ spokesperson for social development Carmel Sepuloni. Carmel was stood down from the role.

The Labour Party has stood down its social development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni – following charges of benefit fraud being laid against her mother.

Labour Party leader Andrew Little said the charges against her mother meant Ms Sepuloni had a conflict of interest in the social development portfolio.

Mr Little said she would remain Junior Whip and remain at number seven on his front bench.

Ms Sepuloni had assured him she did not know her mother was facing charges until today, he said.

Yesterday the court case was reported, which included guilty please from Sepuloni (senior) and her partner.

Mother of Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni admits $100K benefit fraud

The mother of Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni and her partner have admitted 23 benefit fraud charges totalling nearly $100,000.

Beverley Anne Sepuloni and partner Michael Charles Rangi entered guilty pleas to the charges, committed over more than a decade until last year, when they appeared before Judge Allan Roberts in the New Plymouth District Court today.

The charges arose from neither defendant informing government agencies that they commenced a relationship in October, 2003.

The court heard that Rangi was on the dole and also getting an accommodation supplement, while Sepuloni was on a sickness benefit and getting an income-related rental rate for her Housing NZ house.

Sepuloni faced 19 charges of defrauding the State for a total of $33,856 and Rangi four charges totalling $62,351.

Carmel Sepuloni will remain stood down from the social development role until after sentencing but is expected to be reappointed.

When last week’s news broke there was a post at The Standard – Carmel stood down for possible conflict of interest.

The prompt action of Andrew Little in standing Carmel down was mentioned, and I agree that that was a refreshingly good look.

However many comments were trying to blame Paula Bennett for making the charges public – but they would obviously have come out at last week’s and this week’s court appearances anyway. Sepuloni is not a common name.

Ed:

Pete got the wrong end of the stick. Obviously the thought was that perhaps Paula Bennett had been advised of an upcoming prosecution, and seeing a fairly unusual name made further enquiries. If that is the case (and it may of course not be), I hope the reporter does let Carmel know where the information came from . . .

DoublePlusGood:

I think it’s also possible that Bennett ordered some digging on the Sepuloni name, and went after the mother.

They went to the extent of talking of using OIA’s to try and find blame. lprent:

Of more interest, as pointed out above, will be when the political arm of the National party became aware of it from the WINZ staff, and who they told. After all we have the horrible Paula Bennett and her attitudes to spreading private information from WINZ to reporters as an example.

OIA time…

There were many comments on themes of National and Bennett being to blame for something.

And there were also assumptions of innocence. Murray Rawshark:

Standing down is the right thing to do in these circumstances, even though her mum is most likely innocent. Many cases of so-called benefit fraud arise because WINZ are so useless and incompetent.

But yesterday since the guilty verdicts were announced what has been talked about on this at The Standard?

Nothing. Nada. Funkstille. Silence.

Sepuloni’s statement and Parliamentary questions

Carmel Sepuloni made a statement today:

Comment from Carmel Sepuloni
Thursday, 26 February 2015, 10:54 am
Press Release: New Zealand Labour Party

The first I knew of my mother’s charges was when I was called by a reporter yesterday.

I spoke to Andrew and we agreed there is a conflict of interest at the present time which means I will temporarily stand aside from the Social Development portfolio. It’s the right thing to do.

I look forward to resuming my duties when the matter is resolved.

This is a difficult time for my family and I ask the media to please respect their privacy.

I will not be doing any media on this topic.

In the meantime Andrea Vance has been investigating written Parliamentary questions from Sepuloni in Carmel Sepuloni’s questions on benefit fraud.

Labour’s Carmel Sepuloni…recently asked the Government a series of questions about welfare cheats.

The party insists she did not know Beverley Anne Sepuloni was facing charges until yesterday.

Two days earlier, the Kelston MP lodged a series of written parliamentary questions with Social Development Minister Anne Tolley. They centred on benefit fraud.

One question asked for details on the process the Ministry of Social Development used for “establishing whether suspected benefit fraud relating to a client having a partner despite saying they live alone”.

Sepuloni’s mother faces 19 charges of claiming benefits and subsidies she was not entitled to and failing to tell Ministry of Social Development officials she was living with a partner.

The MP’s questions also related to money spent by the ministry on investigating suspected cases of benefit fraud, and how many clients were convicted.

She also asked: “How many [reports] were proved to be correct and how many were found to be incorrect?”

Sepuloni was also interested in information on the Benefit Review Committee – the internal panel set up to review decisions. She wanted to know details about how they were appointed and how much they cost.

That’s amongst many questions.

A spokesperson for Little said: “Carmel was doing her job as Social Development spokesperson by getting as much information as possible on matters of public interest. These questions show she was completely ignorant of her mother’s charges. Written Parliamentary Questions need to be specific and detailed in order to get the answers required.

“This month alone Carmel has filed 112 questions on a wide range of Social Development issues.”

But the subject matter of some of the questions is very coincidental if Sepuloni is telling the truth about not finding out about her mother’s charges until yesterday.

And it has been reported that Sepuloni has been on five days leave due to a sick child – but she was still asking written questions in that time, which seems a bit odd.

Sepuloni’s mother did not enter a plea in her court appearance:

The mother of Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni appeared in court today on benefit fraud charges and was remanded to re-appear next week.

Beverley Anne Sepuloni is facing 19 charges of benefit fraud after being accused of claiming benefits and subsidies she was not entitled to, and failing to tell Ministry of Social Development officials she was living with a partner.

Michael Charles Rangi has been jointly charged with her and is facing four charges.

Both were remanded to re-appear in the New Plymouth District Court on March 5.

Neither entered a plea to the charges.

Mother of Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni remanded to face fraud charges