Hauhama report to be released today

This looks like an awkward report being dumped right on the Christmas break.

Stuff: High-ranking cop Wally Haumaha belittled staff, report to say

The police watchdog has found deputy commissioner Wally Haumaha​ belittled and acted inappropriately to two women staff.

Stuff understands Haumaha faces criticism in the long-awaited Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) report due Thursday, which will find he acted improperly during a high-pressure Government project in 2016.

The report, expected to be released at midday, will be one of three to come from a series of allegations that have beleaguered Haumaha since his promotion to deputy commissioner in May.

It is understood aspects of the findings, which differ from those of a prior Government inquiry, are likely to be contested and challenged.

That may ensure the issue remains alive into next year.

The report does not determine workplace bullying occurred, but does find in two instances he behaved inappropriately and unprofessionally towards two staff who subsequently left the joint project at Police Headquarters.

What actually constitutes ‘bullying’ in a workplace is something that needs further discussion. ‘Inappropriately’ and ‘unprofessionally’ could also mean a wide variety of things.

During one meeting, he belittled and humiliated a staffer.

Two other instances of alleged bullying were found to be unsubstantiated.

Haumaha, after taking legal advice, asked fellow officers and others to support him – deemed improper – and shared inappropriate information about a complainant.

If this report is due to be released today why is stuff reporting on it already?

A State Services Commission review into the  handling of bullying allegations by the Ministry of Justice and Corrections is also expected to be released on Thursday.

There is also a Parliament review to look into bullying, harassment of staff

The Speaker has launched an external review of bullying and harassment of staff at Parliament dating back to October 2014.

Mr Mallard said the review will be carried out by an independent external reviewer, Debbie Francis, who has done similar work with organisations such as the Defence Force.

He said bullying and harassment were unacceptable in any workplace and the review was designed to work out what could be done to improve the parliamentary workplace.

And…

The National Party is already doing its own internal review of its culture, following allegations that former National MP Jami-Lee Ross acted inappropriately with staff and another MP.

A good thing to look at how to improve employer and MP behaviours


From the report:

Mental Health Inquiry report being released today

RNZ:  Govt to release Mental Health Inquiry report today

The panel, led by the former health watchdog Ron Paterson, has spent roughly 10 months consulting people around the country, holding more than 400 meetings and considering about 5000 submissions.

It delivered a 200 page report and 40 recommendations to the Health Minister David Clark last week.

The government will release the report today, but will not formally respond with its plan until March.

Dr Clark has said the inquiry will shape the country’s response to mental health for years to come.

There is pressure on the Government to act quickly with claims that current mental health care is in crisis.

Like:  Teens face up to three month wait for mental health services

Teens needing non-urgent mental health services in the top of the south currently face a wait of up to three months before they are seen.

There had been five resignations in CAMHS team across the district in the past six months and there were three vacancies.

Working in mental health care is very demanding.

The Inquiry website:  Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction

Our purpose was to identify unmet needs and develop recommendations for a better mental health and addiction system for Aotearoa New Zealand.

We wanted to set a clear direction for the next five to ten years that Government, the mental health and addiction sectors and the whole community can pick up and make happen.

On 28 November 2018, we presented He Ara Oranga : report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction to the Government.

The Government has indicated it needs time to consider the report’s findings, but expects to release the report prior to the end of the year.

Once the report has been released it will be available on this website in various formats.

That should be today.

 

Haumaha report to be released on Monday

There seems to have been a lot of fluffing around since Tracey Martin received the report over a week ago, following the inquiry into the appointment of Police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha. Yesterday Martin announced that the report would be released on Monday at 11 am.

On Newshub Nation  on Saturday morning:

All right, final question with your third hat on – Internal Affairs Minister. You’re in charge of the inquiry into Wally Haumaha’s appointment to Deputy Police Commissioner. You have that report right now, so when are you going to release it?

Monday at 11am.

Why have you not released it before the police commissioner went to the select committee?

Because, first of all, I didn’t even know the police commissioner was going to the select committee. Because I needed to make sure that Crown Law had gone through and redacted all the names and so on and so forth of Woman A, Woman B and Woman C, to protect their privacy. And so that is what I did. I wanted to make sure that that had happened and then to set in the process by which to release it publicly.

So they took a week to redact names from the report, and then deferred release of the report until after the weekend – they would have been slammed if they released the report on Friday afternoon, so I guess Monday is as good a time as any.

Jacinda Ardern will have had plenty of time to prepare for her response, either following the release of the report or at her weekly media conference on Monday at 4 pm.


One could wonder if this had any connection: NZ First party president denies laying down the law in Nelson

NZ First’s president called a sudden party meeting on Saturday to deal with “concerning issues” that were said to involve a rift.

New president Lester Gray flew into Nelson with the party’s judicial officer, lawyer Brian Henry. One source said he was demanding members toe the party line, or face expulsion.

The short-notice invitation from Gray said “this week I have been notified of some potentially concerning issues for the NZ First Party. We have therefore called a special meeting in Nelson for Saturday.”

However, Gray said it was a standard electorate meeting, with the agenda closed to members.

Members across parts of the South Island received an email late on Friday morning, calling them to the meeting the following day.

Martin received the report that Friday. I don’t know whether the ‘special meeting’ had anything to do with the report or not

Oddly, Martin didn’t hand on a copy of the report to the Prime Minister until the following Monday.

Question No. 12—Internal Affairs

12. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Which Ministers, if any, have been provided with a copy or executive summary of the final report of the Government Inquiry into the Appointment Process for a Deputy Commissioner of Police, and when were those Ministers provided with those copies or summaries?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Minister of Internal Affairs): My office delivered a copy to the office of the Prime Minister yesterday.

Chris Bishop: Will she be discussing the report and the next steps the Government will be taking with the State Services Commissioner and/or the Solicitor-General?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: My office is currently taking legal advice around the process to hand over to the Minister of State Services and the process with which to do pre-releases to those who need to see the report—e.g., those who participated in it—and then when that report will be released. We are trying to release the report as quickly as possible.

Surely this could (should) have all been worked out prior to the report being handed over.

On Wednesday:

Question No. 10—Internal Affairs

10. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Does the report of the Inquiry into the Appointment Process for a Deputy Commissioner of Police recommend that the appointment process be reopened?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Minister of Internal Affairs): The Government is not going to talk about the findings of the report until it is publicly released. We are following the process recommended by the inquiry, which is to first provide the report to the interested parties.

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Because it is not in the public interest, we are following the process recommended by the inquiry, which is to first provide the report to the interested parties.

Chris Bishop: Does the report of the inquiry into the appointment process for a Deputy Commissioner of Police make findings or recommendations in relation to the allegations of bullying against Mr Haumaha made by the three public servants who worked with him?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I refer the member to my answer to the primary question. It is those people exactly who we are trying to make sure are protected.

Martin repeats “The Government is not going to talk about the findings of the report until it is publicly released”. But then…

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm, in light of the report, which she has seen, that the allegations of a cover-up are just plain ridiculous?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Unfortunately, the scope of the inquiry is not around the terrible allegations put forward by members of this Parliament.

…she responds to a question from Peters regarding the findings of the report. Obviously Peters had seen the report or had been advised of the contents of the report by now.

Peters and NZ First have associations with Haumaha and his appointment, so it seems odd that a NZ First minister is managing the release of the report.

 

 

 

Meka Whaitiri inquiry report leaked, not definitive but damaging

Another leak, this time of the draft report that led to Labour MP Meka Whaitiri being dropped as a minister. So while Jacinda Ardern walks and talks on the world stage this is another problem she left behind still festering.

Audrey Young (NZH) – The minister & the staffer: Leaked report into Meka Whaitiri incident

The incident involving former Government minister Meka Whaitiri and a staff member allegedly left bruising to the upper right arm of the staffer and photos of bruises were produced to the inquiry, a draft report leaked to the Herald shows.

The incident occurred because Whaitiri was unhappy at not having been alerted to a photo opportunity at a media standup with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a lunch break at a function in Gisborne.

Other ministers were standing behind Ardern but Whaitiri wasn’t because no one had told her it was happening.

There is no dispute that Whaitiri had words with her staffer for missing the event.

The staff member claims that Whaitiri came up behind her in the foyer of the building and grabbed her arm hard and took her outside when she saw Ardern having the standup.

But Whaitiri denies physically touching her staff member at any stage. There were no witnesses.

David Patten, the Wellington lawyer who conducted the inquiry for Ministerial Services, the employer of ministerial staff, found on the balance of probabilities that the staff member’s version was the more likely explanation.

He found that Whaitiri did not pull or drag the press secretary outside from the foyer of the building where the meeting was taking place.

But he found it more probable that Whaitiri approached the staffer from behind and grabbed her by the arm and that Whaitiri spoke in a raised voice to the staffer.

In evidence to the inquiry, the staff member said Whaitiri had blamed her for missing the media standup with the Prime Minister.

“She grabbed me by the arm and pulled me outside and said she needed to talk to me and when we were outside she raised her voice.

“I wouldn’t say yelled but she did raise her voice to me and asked me if I knew what I was doing in my job and did I realise I’d missed a media opportunity and that that was embarrassing to her because it was her electorate.”

The staffer originally told the inquiry that Whaitiri had pinched her arm but changed that to grabbed.

“It was hard and it scared the living daylights out of me,” she said.

In other parts of her evidence, she said: “She was definitely angry, and was definitely mad that I had screwed up. It scared me a lot and I didn’t want to return to that [work environment].”

Patten questioned the staff member about the bruises, why it took three days to see them and whether they could have been caused by something else such as a door handle.

She said it wasn’t until she was at a meeting with ministerial services on August 30 that they asked if there were any marks and until then she hadn’t thought to look.

Patten’s finding in the draft report is: “The photographs taken by Morag Ingram on August 30 2018 of [the press secretary’s] upper right arm showing a bruise on that arm … are consistent, in my view, with someone being approached from behind and grabbed by a
right-handed person”.

So this issue won’t go away. Even if no further action is taken and Whaitiri remains an MP – she is strongly backed by other Maori MPs – this is likely to keep being used against Labour and questions will keep being asked about Ardern’s leadership.

Audrey Young: Hard to see MP return as a minister

When Jacinda Ardern sacked Meka Whaitiri a week ago, it was on a trust-me basis.

She said she couldn’t tell the country why she had sacked the minister, her first sacking, without breaching the privacy of a staff member who complained about the minister — even though no one has named the staffer.

She relied on a report by a respected barrister, and after reading it Ardern no longer had confidence in Whaitiri as a minister “at this time”.

The draft findings, leaked to the Herald, clearly reveal why Ardern reached the decision she did on the basis of David Patten’s report.

On the balance of probabilities he is inclined to believe that Whaitiri was very annoyed she had not been alerted by her press secretary to the fact that Ardern was holding a standup where we see MPs nodding in the background, that she grabbed her staffer by the arm to say they needed to talk outside, and then pointed out to her in forceful language that it was her job to make sure she didn’t miss out on such media opportunities. The alleged grabbing of the arm and the bruises are the clincher, though Whaitiri denies physical contact.

Realistically it will be impossible for Whaitiri to return as a minister this term. A byelection in Ikaroa-Rawhiti is unlikely unless the pressure becomes too much.

Whaitiri has an unswerving support base in the Māori caucus.

So this leaves things in an awkward situation.

Two days ago (Newshub): ‘Absolutely gutted’ – Meka Whaitiri speaks for the first time since she was fired

Meka Whaitiri has spoken to media for the first time since being fired from her ministerial portfolios on Thursday last week.

She said it’s been a “debilitating time. I’m absolutely gutted by it.”

“I accept the Prime Minister’s decision. I’m going to take time now to reflect and look at ways of improving myself to regain the Prime Minister’s confidence.

“I’ve got a lot of work to do here on behalf of the people of Ikaroa-Rawhiti. I just want to get on with it,” Ms Whaitiri said.

She added she was “humbled” by the support of the Māori caucus.

Ms Whaitiri would not say which aspects of the report she disputes or whether she would contest the 2020 election.

She still has Maori MP support:

Ms Whaitiri remains an electorate MP for Ikaroa-Rawhiti and co-chair of the Māori caucus, alongside Willy Jackson.

Mr Jackson said she is fit to remain co-chair of the Māori caucus.

“The Māori caucus has taken into account the great work that she has done and in terms of our strategies going forward. There’s a heck of a lot of support there.”

That support may or may not be sufficient to make it tenable for Whaitiri to stand again in her electorate. if she does the level of support in the electorate will then be tested and measured, but it will be difficult to measure the impact on Labour party support.

Perhaps, like Clare Curran, Whaitiri just doesn’t have a suitable temperament or the leadership skills required to be a Minister. The question will remain as to whether this also applies to being an MP.

 

 

 

 

Labour camp review recommendations, but no holding to account, victim appalled

Labour Party President Nigel Haworth said a report on the Labour Youth Camp near Waihi in February had made a number of recommendations which would all be adopted – but I can’t find any details on anyone being held accountable for the use of alcohol by young people, the lack of supervision, and the slow and poor response by party officials.

Timeline (Newsroom and RNZ):

  • 9-11 February 2018: Labour Youth Waitawheta Camp near Waihi in February
  • 12 March: Sexual misconduct alleged at boozy Labour Party camp
    The Labour Party has been hit with claims that four young supporters were sexually assaulted at one of its annual ‘Summer School’ camps near Waihi last month.The four – two males and two females – are all 16 and were allegedly assaulted or harassed by a 20-year-old man during a wild party on the second night of the camp. Newsroom has been told the man was intoxicated and put his hand down the pants of at least three of the four young people.
  • 12 March: PM investigating reports of sexual assault at Labour event
    Labour’s general secretary Andrew Kirton didn’t notify the Prime Minister, the police or parents that four teenagers were allegedly sexually assaulted at its summer camp last month.
  • 13 March: Labour camp misconduct: Victim reached out to Megan Woods
    It has been revealed that Cabinet Minister Megan Woods was contacted by a victim raising concerns about incidents of sexual assault of teenagers at a Labour Party summer camp.
  • 14 March: Second Labour sexual assault incident alleged
    Another person has contacted the Labour Party saying they too were sexually assaulted at a Labour event several years ago. Labour has already apologised to four teenagers who were sexually harassed by a 20-year-old man at a Labour youth camp in Waihi last month.
  • 19 March: Details of Labour’s sexual assault review revealed
    The review into how Labour handled complaints of sexual assault is expected to take up to three months and every party member will be contacted.
  • 22 June: Andrew Kirton steps down as Labour Party general secretary
    The Labour Party’s general secretary, Andrew Kirton, has resigned to take up a senior position with Air New Zealand.
  • 5 July: Labour Party camp accused in court, name suppressed
    A 20-year-old man has appeared in court charged with indecent assaults at a Labour Party youth summer camp. He denied six charges of assaulting four victims believed to be aged 16 to 18. The man was arrested on 26 June.
  • 29 August: Review reported on

The report was “expected to take up to three months” but has been partially reported on five months later.

RNZ:  Labour to review policies after Young Labour camp incidents

The Labour Party says it will implement all the recommendations of a report into indecent assaults at a Young Labour camp in February.

Labour Party president Nigel Haworth said Labour had committed to putting in place all the recommendations and had established a process for that work to be completed.

The recommendations:

  • Develop a more tangible and effective relationship between Young Labour and the Labour Party
  • Review and/or develop policies on The party’s code of conduct – along with consideration as to whether that should apply to the Young Labour Party, or whether a modified or separate code should be developed
  • Review and/or develop policies on sexual harassment and sexual assault, alcohol, events and host responsibility, bullying and complaint procedure
  • Incorporate updated event registration and parental consent and risk disclosure information requirements and forms to ensure compliance with current best practice and all legislation relating to the care of minors when participating in party held events.
  • Ensure at least one Labour Party representative should also attend the entire event and be available throughout (solely or jointly with another nominated adult supervisor) to ensure compliance with safety and welfare expectations and the Young Labour Party should also nominate a welfare officer to attend all events
  • Introduce a new, over-arching alcohol policy, formulated in consultation with expert external advice
  • Introduce a new open complaints process to enable complaints to be received and responded to without delay and with the appropriate degree of specialist advice.

However, Mr Haworth said he would not be releasing the report.

One of the victims:

“As far as I’m concerned the failure to release the report to the media is absolutely disgraceful”

“I feel to a degree that there is conflict of interest in a sense – one of the most influential figures that was aware of the original complaint, which is the President of the party, is also the person that is in charge of implementing the recommendations of the review.

“Further to that, the fact that it hasn’t been released to the media shows an absolute lack of transparency, but a copy also hasn’t been released to the victims or the people that were interviewed for the review, which from my perspective as a victim is absolutely disgraceful.”

Jacinda Ardern…

…said she has yet to read the full report, however, it would not be made public because the events detailed in it were still before the court.

The review was undertaken for a reason and the party knows there were things it needed to do differently, Ms Ardern said.

I understand the need to not make the full report public due to matters still being ‘before the court’.

There seems to be no reason why victims should not be given the report, except that Labour may want to keep things from being revealed that could impact on the prosecution.

Perhaps Labour have given their report to the prosecution to help with the facts of the matter, but I can’t see any indication of this having been done.

I can see no indication of anyone apart from the alleged offender being held accountable.

Party secretary Andrew Kirton resigned in June and left the party in July.

Labour need to maker sure things like this don’t happen again in the future, so it is good to see recommendations on that.

But there appears to be no holding to account for those that allowed underage drinking at February’s camp, enabled alleged sexual assaults to happen, and then tried to deal with it alarmingly inadequately, and secretly.

Newsroom:  Victim slams Labour summer camp report

One of the victims from Labour’s youth summer camp scandal has slammed the party for its “absolutely appalling” handling of a review into what went wrong, saying nobody is being held accountable.

“Failing to release the report shows a blatant lack of accountability and from my perspective as a victim, is absolutely appalling.”

The report should have been released with the redaction of any information which could have identified people, they said.

The victims and witnesses involved in Austen’s inquiry were not given a copy of the final report either.

They also questioned the news that Haworth would lead the work on changing Labour’s procedures, given the failures of the party in handling the initial complaint.

“The person in charge of implementing the recommendations is the person that hasn’t been trusted in the first place to provide support and resolve the issue…I don’t see accountability there.”

The victim believed alcohol should be banned entirely from events which had significant numbers of people under the age of 18, rather than allowing adults to drink while in attendance.

Labour have failed again to address concerns of at least one victim.

 

 

Russell McVeagh abuse report due out today

Hints of “shocking abusive bullying” and “abuses of power” seem to have leaked out in advance of the review of alleged sexual abuse and abuse of power at Russell McVeagh.

RNZ: Russell McVeagh review details to be released today

RNZ understands the review details incidents of “shocking abusive bullying” and “abuses of power”.

Partners at the firm have been walked through the findings in a fraught meeting with Dame Margaret Bazely, with some left in tears.

The review is looking into the sexual harassment claims of 2015/2016 and the firm’s response, any other sexual harassment claims or any other improper conduct and the firm’s response to those claims, the firm’s standards, systems and policies relating to the management of staff, the firm’s implementation of those policies and whether they adequately safeguard staff from sexual harassment and the culture of the firm.

The review will be made public at 10am. Following the release, Dame Margaret Bazely will brief Russell McVeagh staff.

RNZ details the background to revelations being released:

  • On 14 February, Newsroom published a story detailing three sexual assault complaints involving interns and two older male lawyers at leading law firm Russell McVeagh. It was reported the incidents took place two years ago. That summer there were ten clerks on the summer intern programme. Five of the clerks were female and they declined full-time job offers from the firm after the programme.
  • In the following days, Victoria University confirmed several of its students on internships at Russell McVeagh reported being sexually assaulted by lawyers. The police were involved but no charges resulted.
  • At the time, Russell McVeagh senior partner Pip Greenwood said the firm’s board was aware of the allegationsand conducted an internal investigation. The men involved no longer work at the company, she said.
  • Just over a week after the initial story broke, new allegations were made of inappropriate sexual conduct between university students and senior lawyers at Russell McVeagh. In a social media post, AUT law lecturer Khylee Quince said the Auckland University students described an evening where there was heavy drinking between students and lawyers, leading to sex on a boardroom table.
  • At the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s annual review in late February, National MP Melissa Lee raised questions over the government’s continued use of Russell McVeagh.

If the pre-release reports are accurate it sounds like tough times for Russell McVeagh.

At least it appears to be being addressed, so some good may come out of this if it is dealt with properly by the law firm.

Newsroom also pre-empt the release of the report: Four things the Russell McVeagh review must address

Questions have been raised about when Russell McVeagh knew and responded to allegations ranging from sexual assault to rape by five summer interns. The claims relate to at least two incidents and involved two lawyers employed by the firm at the time. Bazley has been tasked with reviewing and giving recommendations relating to the allegations, plus Russell McVeagh’s policies around sexual harassment and the wider culture of the firm.

The main things Bazley’s report must address:

  1. How Russell McVeagh handled the complaints
    Russell McVeagh has ensured the review is independent, but there is no indication whether Bazley has been given full and complete access to all of the firm’s records.
  2. Reference for one of the men involved
    One of the lawyers went on to work at Duncan Cotterill, the other went on to share an office with other lawyers.Duncan Cotterill said it had no idea of the allegations at the time the man was hired. Duncan Cotterill said it was led to believe by a reference check that the incident was minor.
  3. Continuing to use one of the men for legal work 
    One of the men was receiving Russell McVeagh work once he left the firm. Russell McVeagh told Newsroom it was ethically obliged to keep him on a case, even though the law firm had to ban female staff from working on that account and bar the former senior staffer from attending meetings at its office.
  4. Why Russell McVeagh did not inform the Law Society 
    The Law Society was first informed of the claims in October 2016 when one of the women told the society, almost 10 months after the incidents. The firm’s partners may have breached their legal obligations under the Lawyers Conduct and Client Care Rules by failing to report the alleged misconduct immediately.

We may or may not get answers to these questions today.

Report on preventing youth crime

A report written by justice sector science advisor Dr Ian Lambie, titled It is never too early, never too late: A
discussion paper on preventing youth offending in New Zealand, urges agencies to adopt “developmental
crime prevention” model.


Principal Youth Court judge welcomes new report on tackling youth crime

A report on addressing youth crime in New Zealand is a blueprint for change that needs to involve all agencies
and communities, says Principal Youth Court Judge John Walker.

The report found the number of offenders in the youth-justice system is decreasing, but more needed to be
done to understand youth offending.

“With its focus on rehabilitation, reintegration and restorative justice, the report highlights that New Zealand
has an innovative youth justice system that works well to address offending by people aged 14 to 17.

“However, if we really want to be serious about getting to the root causes of youth crime, it shows we need to
tackle those issues when they’re children, not when they turn up in the youth justice system at 14. Too often
in the Youth Court we’re playing “catch up”, dealing with long standing issues that could have been addressed
many years before.”

A key issue the report highlights is that the causes of youth crime are intergenerational and linked to problems
within families and communities, Judge Walker says.

“When the research shows that 80 percent of child and young offenders grow up in homes where family
violence is present, breaking this cycle of violence from one generation to another is critical.

“To address the underlying issues and the well-entrenched behaviours we see in young people and young
adults, we must target every point in the timeline. We need to be pre-emptive, responsive, and adopt longterm
strategies.

“Regular visits to check on the health of toddlers, programmes to help parents and address the mental health
of mothers, tackling challenging behaviour by children and supporting early childhood centres and schools are
just some of the options the report highlights for addressing the issues that lead to youth offending.”

Judge Walker says young people do not grow up in a vacuum.

“Communities play an integral role in providing the framework within which young lives can be
reclaimed. What this report pinpoints is that change does not happen just by what we do, but by what
we do alongside others.”

KickStart Breakfast programme report inconclusive

Lindsay Mitchell points out that there is a lot of uncertainty in a report on the KickStart Breakfast programme in Lots of ‘ifs’ and ‘maybes’

The report: KickStart Breakfasts and Indicators of Child Health in Linked Administrative Data

The existing evidence base

International evidence is that eating a healthy breakfast can lead to improvements in academic performance, appears to improve overall diet quality, and may protect against weight gain.

Existing New Zealand evidence establishes that school breakfast programmes reduce student hunger. Small New Zealand studies suggest provision of milk in schools increases the proportion of children meeting recommended guidelines for dairy intake and improves bone health.

Results from international and New Zealand studies assessing whether school feeding programmes have positive impacts on other student outcomes are mixed, but generally positive.

Evidence from research on dairy consumption and child health suggest that school food programmes that boost dairy intake could have positive effects on a range of measures of child health, with the potential to improve oral and bone health in particular.

What this study adds

This study was commissioned to provide a quantitative assessment of the impact of the KickStart programme on students’ outcomes. The Statistics New Zealand Integrated Data Infrastructure was used in this study.

Informed by the existing evidence base, and by the data available, we focussed on measures of students’ oral and bone health.

We found that after controlling for a range of other factors, students aged under 13 enrolled in schools and kura with higher uptake of KickStart – measured in terms of the average number of breakfasts served per student, per week across three school years – were significantly less likely than their peers to have hospital outpatient visits for dental
surgery.

Etc.

But there is a lot of uncertainty. Mitchell points out some ifs and maybes.

“We see no evidence of a significant association between KickStart intensity and the two administrative indicators of fracture. One possible explanation is that KickStart intensity had no association with bone health. Another is that students who received more KickStart were more active as a result of increased energy intake. Falls may have increased at the same time as the likelihood of fracture upon falling was reduced as a result of improvements in bone health.”.

-KickStart may have improved the nutritional quality of the breakfasts consumed by students. This mechanism is suggested by a study by Bhattacharya et al. (2006) which examined the United States School Breakfast Program.

-The effect of the breakfasts may have been to displace consumption of unhealthy snack foods, including sugary food and drinks, as suggested by the cross-sectional study conducted by Utter and colleagues (2007).

– Reduced pressure on home budgets as a result of KickStart may have allowed families and whānau to purchase higher quality foods to eat at other times of the day and week. Such spillover effects are suggested by the Bhattacharya et al. (2006) study, which found that both adults and preschool children had healthier diets and lower percentages of calories from fat when the School Breakfast Program was available to school-aged children in the household.

If Kickstart caused improvements in diet and caused sugary food and drinks to be displaced, this would suggest that benefits might also include reduced obesity and improvements in learning, health and development (Thornley et al., 2017a), including reductions in rheumatic fever (Thornley et al., 2017b).

There are more uncertainties:

We are unable to draw conclusions about the degree to which reduced outpatient visits for dental surgery were caused by KickStart alone.

…there are plausible mechanisms that could link KickStart and reduced hospital outpatient visits for dental surgery

The limited information available through existing linked de-identified administrative data meant that we were unable to examine some of these wider potential benefits.

No clear association was found between increased exposure to KickStart and administratively sourced measures indicative of bone fractures in students aged under 13.

And that’s before getting to the Introduction. Jumping to…

Conclusion

Schools and kura are overwhelmingly positive about the KickStart programme and report positive effects on students’ health and wellbeing and engagement with school. Our analysis of linked administrative data shows that after controlling for a range of confounders, students enrolled in schools and kura with higher uptake of KickStart – measured in terms of the average number of breakfasts served per student per week across three school years – are significantly less likely than their peers to have hospital outpatient visits for dental surgery.

While plausible causal mechanisms exist, we are unable to draw conclusions about the degree to which this association reflects the causal impact of KickStart.

A report that is unable to draw conclusions seems of limited use.

Another report information wrongly withheld by Auckland Council

RNZ reports on a third case where mayor Phil Goff and the Auckland City Council withheld information requested under the Official Information act that required intervention by the Ombudsman’s Office – Auckland Council stalled release of reports

The release of the $935,000 consultants’ report on a downtown stadium on Friday was the third time RNZ had to resort to the Ombudsman’s Office to extract public information.

The information was eventually found to have been wrongly withheld by Auckland Council.

All three directly involve the mayor Phil Goff.

In the latest case, RNZ had requested at the end of November 2017 the “pre-feasability” study looking at the prospects for a downtown stadium.

Advocacy for a closer look at the stadium had been part of Mr Goff’s election campaign.

Mr Goff personally called for the report soon after he was elected Mayor in October 2016, following 33 years in national politics.

Consultants PwC were engaged in January, although that move was not publicly announced until March, and the draft was delivered on time in June to the council agency Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA).

The council argued initially that the report was only a draft, and therefore not required to be released under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA).

Wrong, said Ombudsman Leo Donnelly in an opinion he sent to Auckland Council and released to RNZ.

“There is no basis for a blanket withholding of drafts under LGOIMA until they are completed and finalised,” he wrote.

“To have a standard approach of withholding draft reports until they have been fully signed off, leaves the process open to exploitation by agencies who want to hold off release of information until it is most convenient.”

Read the Ombudsman’s opinion on Auckland Council’s arguments here (693.4KB)

In negotiations between the council and the Ombudsman, a senior council legal manager had also rejected the notion that public interest was not a ground for release.

“Any interest in the contents of the Report is tangential to the overall stadium issue, and falls into the category of being interesting to the public as opposed to being of legitimate concern to the public.”

Wrong, opined the Ombudsman.

“This is a project which, were the matter to progress, would involve the use of significant public funds, either through the council or central government,” wrote Leo Donnelly.

“There is a public interest in the Council being transparent at each step of the process.”

If draft reports could be kept secret under the OIA then many reports may never reach a final stage.

RNZ understands that the mayor’s office has been the key player in seeking the withholding of the “draft” report, and it was the mayor’s office which managed the reports’ release on Friday.

It also allowed Mr Goff to have a “conversation” with Finance Minister Grant Robertson on the subject, just a week ago.

It’s a re-run of RNZ’s effort to get a report commissioned by Mr Goff on the future of the vehicle import trade on Auckland’s waterfront.

Again, moving Auckland’s port long-term and the space-hungry vehicle import trade in the shorter term, were Goff campaign battle cries.

Again, fresh in office, Mr Goff ordered a report on the costs and benefits, and a draft was completed in May 2017.

It didn’t support Mr Goff’s view that the trade was a blight on the waterfront. RNZ’s request for a copy in July was declined.

Goff seems to have transferred poor OIA practices of central Government to the Auckland Council.

The outcome of the Ombudsman’s Office investigation into Auckland Council conduct around public information release, is still awaited.

But will it make any difference to Goff’s delaying tactics?

From Goff’s campaign policy document:

Council is regarded as an organisation that needs to cut fat from its system, become more responsive to the needs of its residents and ratepayers, and to be more transparent in how it spends its money.

Transparency seems to have morphed into secrecy. And the fat cutting? Auckland Council paying $45 million for ‘communications and engagement’

A leaked, confidential Auckland Council report has revealed the local body is spending $45 million running its various communications departments which employ 234 staff.

Critics have called for the council to tighten its belt and drastically cut the number of “spin doctors” it employs.

Mayor Phil Goff, who campaigned on tightening the city’s excess spending, addressed the reviews, which he instigated, at a meeting with the North Harbour business community in August.

“I’m spending your money,” he said. “You need to know you’re getting value for money in what we spend.”

Except when Goff wants to use his comms staff to keep things secret.


Goff is being interviewed on RNZ now.

Goff denies playing any part in the withholding of information. He says it follows a process. That process seems to be severely flawed.

He expects the Council to take on board the Ombudsman’s comments but then puts forward reasons (makes excuses) for not releasing information.

 

Building Blocks for improving the wellbeing of children

The Children’s Convention Monitoring Group has released a report called Getting It Right: Building Blocks that details where progress is being made and suggests future action.

Key recommendations:

  • taking children and their views into account when new policies are developed
  • supporting children’s participation in decisions that affect them
  • ensuring children’s privacy and best interests are considered when collecting their information
  • using the Children’s Convention to develop a plan for children and their wellbeing.

So I guess this report was a pre-plan. This sounds quite vague feel-good stuff.

NZH: Children’s Convention Monitoring Group releases report to better child wellbeing

Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft said the Government promised 25 years ago to do better for all children when it signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Now New Zealand needed to walk towards that goal.

The convention is a human rights treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children.

Becroft described past work on child wellbeing as “ad hoc” and this report offered a coherent plan.

“If we’re going to mean business to do better for New Zealand children then this report says we have to put in place some key building blocks to get there.

“These are foundations. If they are not in place welfare is not going to make any real progress … We’re better than this.

“We can do so much better for our children.”

We (New Zealand) should be striving to do better for our children. Most parents and families already strive to do the best they can for their children.

There are 1.1 million children and young people under 18 years old in Aotearoa. Around 20 per cent are not doing well and 10 per cent are really struggling with issues ranging from abuse and neglect, material deprivation and poor health to difficulties learning at school.

In 2016 the United Nations gave New Zealand 47 urgent recommendations to improve child wellbeing, including addressing negative outcomes for Māori and Pasifika children, reducing high rates of violence, abuse and neglect. This report would address that, Becroft said.

Problems of violence, abuse and neglect are adult problems, with children being the victims.

“Recent initiatives such as the Child Poverty Reduction Bill and the proposed Child Wellbeing Strategy are positive steps towards improving the lives of children in New Zealand.

“We need to ensure these are not one-off actions.

Minister for Children Tracey Martin said they were broadly supportive of the report and would assess the viability of the recommendations.

“The Ministry of Social Development is already working on key recommendations including co-ordination, training and tools, children’s participation and raising awareness. MSD will deliver an online Child Impact Assessment tool in the near future.

“NZ is committed to major progress on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

Voyce Whakarongo Mai chief executive Dr Ainsleigh Cribb-Su’a expressed excitement over the report.

“It explicitly implores the Government to mandate the incorporation of a child impact analyses on all legislation and policy development processes.

“Seeking out children’s views on service design is essential. It is their future that we are designing, let’s incorporate their views in all that we develop.”

I get a feeling this is largely high level academic type paper pushing. I’m sure some good can come out of it, but there needs to be real life improvements more than ideals on paper.

“Seeking out children’s views on service design” may be essential, but how many kids in deprived living conditions with violent or addicted parents are going to give a toss about “service design’. That just want to feel safe and loved – and this report seems to be way above this basic level of care.

Kids living in bad situations  need help and support, and I feel that fancy words and human rights are way over the top of that, trying to make a few adults feel good about doing something.