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

 

English succumbing to bark at every car syndrome

Opponents claimed the Key/English government cost lives, now English is trying that same attack. This looks both petty and highly questionable.

English seems to be quickly succumbing to barking at every car syndrome.

I thought he could be good in Opposition, even decent, but he seems to have chosen descent.

This won’t help National recovery and rebuild. English needs to relearn being an effective Opposition, or else he is unlikely to last out this term.

 

8 improvements for Oranga Tamariki

CYF (Child, Youth, Family) have a controversial record. They ceased to exist at the end of March, and have been replaced by the Controversially named Minister for Vulnerable Children, known less cringingly as Oranga Tamariki.

Stacey Kirk suggests there are Eight things the new Oranga Tamariki Ministry for Vulnerable Children must do better than CYF.

It’s carrying the weight of a record number of children placed in CYF care in the past year, and Government expects the ministry to usher in a new era of child care and support.

Here are 8 things it must do better, if it’s to be a success:

1. Children must be heard

A panel of former CYF kids has advised on nearly every facet of setting up the new system. Above all, they told Minister Anne Tolley and a panel of experts leading the overhaul that they only ever wanted to be in a safe, stable and loving home.

That may or may not be with their parents, but a child knows where they feel the most comfortable to thrive and often, it will be with family. Wherever possible, the children’s voice can’t just be heard but listened to.

Not just listened to but given priority to, except in exceptional circumstances.

2. All rates, (but in particular Maori rates), of re-abuse must come down

Rates of re-abuse among Maori children, once they leave the care of Child, Youth and Family, are startling.

It’s a given that abuse and especially re-abuse rates have to come down. It’s not just up to Oranga Tamariki but they will be an essential part of many solutions.

3. Children cannot be passed around 

Ministry research shows that countless numbers of children in state care said they wanted to stay in the same place. They wanted stability.

Taking a child away from their family is traumatic, but in some case the act of moving them back again multiple times can be just as harrowing.

After safety stability is important, but it can be difficult to achieve. There have to be enough stable alternatives to family.

4. Resources must be adequate

This new system will change the emphasis to working with families at the earliest opportunity, to make sure children don’t have to be removed.

For that, resources need to be bolstered and used far more efficiently than they are now.

If significant funding increases aren’t in next month’s budget then it will be an ongoing struggle to make any progress. Investing more money now should save it in the longer term.

5. Information sharing

Information between agencies like social workers and health professionals and police is very contentious, but kids have fallen through some very big cracks due to a lack of information being available to the right people.

6. Cutting down the paperwork

Many cry out for more social workers – they of course, would be helpful. But hiring more social workers is a wasted exercise if they’re still having to spend more than 50 per cent of their time on paperwork.

Tolley says work is being done by the new Oranga Tamariki chief executive Grainne Moss to cut down KPIs – or targets – from more than 200, to 60.

Good paperwork is essential, but too much paperwork takes too much time and there is a risk of information overload that detracts from effective care.

7. Reduce the number of children going into care

Tolley has set a lofty target here herself: “That within a generation of care we’re talking hundreds of children in care, rather than thousands.

The latest figures showed a record high of nearly 5500 children in CYF care at the year to December, 2016. Taking that down to the hundreds within a generation is a target many would be happy to hold the Government to.

That’s a huge improvement – if it can be achieved. It won’t be easy.

8. Support families to help themselves

The biggest measure of success surely has to be a country of families in which CYF does not need to have a presence.

There will always be some who need help. But if this work is a success, within that same generation it shouldn’t be hard to imagine a circuit breaker where New Zealand families thrive together and don’t abuse or neglect their children at all.

Abuse and neglect can’t be eliminated altogether, but it has to be significantly reduced. Massively reduced.

Oranga Tamariki

Yesterday a new Ministry was announced dedicated for the care and protection of children.

Like the Children’s Commissioner and many others I really don’t like the English name of the new Ministry so it may be better known by the Maori version – Oranga Tamariki.

Tamariki is well known as being young people, children.

oranga

1. (noun) survivor, food, livelihood, welfare, health, living.

So Oranga Tamariki looks appropriate enough.


New ministry dedicated to care and protection

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley says that a new child-centred, stand-alone ministry with a new Chief Executive is to be established to focus on the care and protection of vulnerable children and young people.

Cross-agency advice from the State Services Commission, Treasury and MSD has recommended that, given the significance and scale of the proposed reforms to state care and protection, a stand-alone department is most likely to provide a single point of accountability, clear organisational focus and the ability to attract strong leadership. This reflects the advice given by the Minister’s independent expert panel, and has been agreed by Cabinet.

The new department, named the Ministry for Oranga Tamariki will begin operating by April 2017.

“The new ministry, new name and completely new operating model reflects our determination to remain absolutely focused on the individual needs of each child,” says Mrs Tolley.

“The inclusion of an aspirational Maori name as part of the title reinforces our clear expectation that much more needs to be done to address the fact that 6 out of ten kids in care are Maori.

“This is not a rebranding exercise. It is how this ministry performs, rather than its name, which will make a difference for vulnerable young people. It will also require strong leadership to implement the massive changes required over the next 4-5 years, as well as embed the necessary culture change within staff.”

Following an in-depth analysis and a detailed business case from the expert panel, the Minister recently announced wide-ranging state care reforms as part of a radical long-term overhaul, which will see the current crisis-management CYF system replaced by a completely new model which addresses the short and long-term wellbeing of at-risk children and supports their transition into adulthood.

This new ministry will focus on five core services – prevention, intensive intervention, care support services, transition support and a youth justice service aimed at preventing offending and reoffending, and will have the ability to directly purchase vital services such as trauma counselling as soon as they are needed by children.

A major transformation programme is underway at the moment, supported by $200 million of initial new investment in Budget 2016, and this is taking place alongside normal CYF operations which have received an extra $144 million for cost pressures.

Legislation is currently going through Parliament which will raise the age of state care and protection to a young person’s 18th birthday, ensure that children’s voices are heard in decisions which affect them, and establish an independent youth advocacy service.

“The long-term outcomes for young people in the current system are simply atrocious,” says Mrs Tolley.

“When we started this process nearly a year and a half ago, I promised that there would be no more tinkering around the edges. Fourteen reviews and numerous reorganisations have not improved the outcomes for children.

“A detailed, long-term plan over a number of years is required.

“Too many kids who come into contact with CYF end up on a benefit, or in prison, or with few qualifications. This has to stop. They deserve better than this, and the new operating model will put the needs of children first, above everything else, so that they can have the opportunity to live happy and successful lives.

“I’m also pleased to announce that a new Youth Advisory Panel comprised of young people in state care or with experience of state care will advise me and the transformation team as the new system is developed over the next few months.

“For too long the needs and opinions of children and young people in the care system have been ignored. The Youth Advisory Panel, the independent youth advocacy service, and legislation requiring that children’s voices must be heard in decisions affecting them, will mean that the new system is truly child-centred.”

The new Ministry will be reviewed after two years to ensure that it is working as it should and that it is delivering the expected results for children and young people.

Cabinet papers relevant to the overhaul of care and protection are available at:

http://www.msd.govt.nz/about-msd-and-our-work/work-programmes/investing-in-children/index.html

Related speech from Anne Tolley: New ministry to focus solely on vulnerable children

 

Ministry for Inappropriate Names

Monty Python made famous a Ministry of Silly Walks. Perhaps there’s a need for a Ministry of Inappropriate Names.

Ministry of Slackers and Layabouts?

Ministry of Old Farts?

Ministry of the Crippled and Sickly?

Stuff: Planned ‘Ministry for Vulnerable Children’ labelled “stigmatising” and “cripplingly disappointing”

A week into his new role as Children’s Commissioner, Andrew Becroft described the mooted name for CYF’s replacement “cripplingly disappointing”.

Child Youth and Family (CYF) is being shut down and will be completely replaced by a new agency by April next year.

While “Ministry for Vulnerable Children” is expected to be the new name for the department, this has not been finalised by Cabinet.

“I understand no decision has been made but regarding the name mentioned [Ministry for Vulnerable Children] … the response from me and the office and indeed most of the sector that I’ve spoken to is entirely negative,” Becroft said. 

My response is entirely negative too. That’s an awful name for a Ministry. A negative name.

I hope the Cabinet has enough sensible Ministers to veto this name and insist on something sensible.

I didn’t think changing a name would change a Ministry but changing to a name like this would be a distinct change for the worse.

Vulnerable children and information sharing

Personal information, who can have it, what they can use it for and who they can share it with are contentious issues.

The starting point should generally be that personal information should remain as private as possible. But there need to be exceptions, for the good of individuals and for the greater good.

And the care and protection of vulnerable children is a priority that should override some privacy. Their rights should certainly take precedence over abusive carers and families.

Stacy Kirk writes: About time children’s rights came first

Under proposed new laws, government agencies dealing with a vulnerable child in danger will be able to share information without needing the family’s permission.

It’s about time.

The final report of a panel tasked with overhauling Child, Youth and Family (CYF) was released this week. It delivered on a promise to propose radical change.

A major problem for CYF is that when a vulnerable child is handed to them  by another agency (such as health or justice),  the child often becomes CYF’s responsibility alone.

Not always, but far too often, other agencies will notify CYF if they see an issue and then think: “great, child referred, job done”.

Worse, they won’t notify  CYF due to privacy concerns.

Two key paragraphs buried within a mountain of text signal a major shift toward the presumption of information-sharing when children are at risk.

“If information is to be shared without consent, this should only occur where the practitioner believes that the benefits of information exchange to a child or young person outweighs any potential negative impacts…”

Under this proposal, anyone acting in good faith would be protected from civil, criminal or any professional disciplinary action.

That includes doctors, priests, psychiatrists, social workers, lawyers and all those other professions where client confidentiality is ingrained and sometimes legislated for.

But where those people are dealing with children, and particularly children in danger, they will not only be given the ability to share relevant information without permission, they will be expected to.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley, in a Cabinet paper to her ministerial colleagues, said she supported the approach.

Children’s Commissioner Russell Wills, a paediatrician, says it’s an important shift that lowers the threshold for information exchange.

The safety of a child should always trump the privacy of a family that doesn’t always have the best interests of that child at heart.

Rights of children, especially the care and safety of vulnerable children and abused and mistreated children, must be a higher priority than keeping information private.

Green Paper for Vulnerable Children submissions

Many of the submissions on the  Green Paper for Vulnerable Children are now available online – thanks to advice from the Council of Social Services (Dunedin).

“Thousands of people took part in the Green Paper consultation through 68 public meetings from Kaitaia to Invercargill and by making submissions via mail, email, online surveys, and even on Facebook.

“This process resulted in almost 10,000 submissions made by non-government organisations, community groups and members of the public including over 2,000 children.

“All Green Paper submissions were read, analysed and collated as officials and experts across government agencies developed the White Paper which is to be released this October.”

The White Paper was due to have been released this month, before it was initially delayed until September, and now October.

The Green Paper summary of submissions, and the 600 full submissions that have been publicly released, can be accessed from the Government’s Green Paper website.

Quick links:

Cross party, cross sectional collaboration on child outcomes

In a speech in parliament yesterday during the Estimates Debate for Vote Social Development Kevin Hague called for a cross party, cross sectional approach to child outcomes.

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development):

Certainly, what you see coming out of submissions is the debate around targeting. You have universal services that cross across health, education, and, of course, social development, but, equally, you then need to look at whom you are targeting.

So if there is anything in that work that you are doing within Child, Youth and Family to prevent some of these children from being abused and neglected, it is looking at who they are and where they are, and then working it out and making sure we have got the absolute right service delivery from the right professionals around them. This is a substantial portfoli so what it needs is that concerted vision and approach to it from all directions—

Jacinda Ardern:

I again extend the offer that Labour extended under Annette King when she was the spokesperson for social development, and that I again extend as Labour’s spokesperson—that we are happy to work with this Government on issues relating to children’s well-being. But I do so with the one disclaimer: we think the bar needs to be raised.

The green paper highlighted the issues that the National Government wanted to focus on when it comes to what it perceives to be vulnerable children: information sharing, mandatory reporting, and the way the agencies are engaging with families.

Our contention has been that we need to take a much broader approach when it comes to the well-being of children. We need to look at issues like income adequacy, poverty, housing, health, and education.

Kevin Hague:

…while we have had this consultation with the public around the Green Paper for Vulnerable Children, we have also had the Māori Affairs Committee considering what needs to be done for Māori children, and I sit on the Health Committee, which is engaged in an inquiry into practical steps for improving child health outcomes and reducing child abuse. Many of the submitters to those three processes have been expressing some degree of bewilderment and, sometimes, frustration about the fact that there are three processes.

I think what this amounts to is that actually for people in the community, their lives are being lived in an entirely unsiloed way, whereas our response as a Parliament, and the State’s response to people’s needs, is instead fragmented and broken into silos. I guess those three inquiries are emblematic of exactly that issue.

What we have is a situation where the challenges that people face are not well-met by that fragmented response by the State. What we need to do is to find ways of working across silos, working in a cross-sectoral way, to address the needs that people have.

It is no surprise to anyone working in any of those three areas, including the area that we are looking at now of social development, that the families and the communities who have the greatest needs in the social development area are the very same ones who have the greatest needs in health, or, indeed, in housing or in education.

Problems in one area can contributeb to and escalate problems in another. For example poor housing leads to poorer health, poorer education and inevitably poorer social outcomes for the children.

I believe that if there is an opportunity that arises from having these parallel inquiries and these parallel processes going on, it must be this: to, again, find a way of making cross-sectoral collaboration actually happen on the ground.

I acknowledge the Minister’s recognition of the value of cross-party collaboration.

I recognise Jacinda Ardern’s call for that same thing.

I suggest to the Government that here is a great opportunity to make something of these inquiries, and to call on other parties to collaborate.

The cross party will seems to already be there. So they should just do it.

 

InTheHouse.co.nz video:

ESTIMATES DEBATE
In Committee
Draft transcript

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Thank you for the opportunity to take a call on the estimates for Vote Social Development. There is no doubt about it that this is a big year for social development. If you look across what we are doing as far as the progression and the work in this portfolio, you cannot go further than, I think, three main areas of work, and probably counting from there.

The main areas would certainly be in welfare reform. We have already seen a welfare reform one go through. They would certainly be around the white paper and the changes within Child, Youth and Family and the developments there, and also investing in services for outcomes, which relates to changes in how we are contracting with NGOs, in particular, but also, I think, wider than that, in the work that we are doing in communities.

Added to that, of course, is the work that we are doing with youth, which has been a huge focus for us, and, along with the Associate Ministers in this portfolio, we have made a substantial difference. I know that Minister Borrows, with his Associate Minister hat on, would take the opportunity to talk a lot about youth offending and the progress that we have seen there in the changes to not just sentencing, I think, but, more, the preventative work that is being done in community organisations and with the police as well.

[Continuation line: That investment, which we made years ago]

That investment, which we made years ago, is certainly paying off, but I will leave that to him. I thought it was opportune, because we have certainly had questions around it today.

Today we released the summary of the green paper and the submissions that were made on that in the writing of the white paper. So it is an opportune time to sort of look at where we are at and what we are doing when it comes to Child, Youth and Family and the notifications there.

On average, at the moment we are getting around 150,000 to 155,000 notifications, of which around 55,000 are deemed to need follow-up. And from there we have about 22,000 substantiated cases of abuse or neglect. When you look at the figures on the areas of physical abuse and sexual abuse, they are not actually increasing. They have been fairly stable, if you like, over a long period of time in this country.

Where you see a huge increase is in emotional abuse and how that is categorised. So in one respect you can sort of say that it is horrific that any level of abuse is going up, but I think if you looked at it from a different angle you would say that at least we are identifying it now as what it is and, in many cases, taking it a bit more seriously. That was under Labour, quite frankly, so I am not standing here to say that that has particularly changed there. What we have seen is most certainly an increase, and then changes in how we approach it.

Differential response within Child, Youth and Family is making a big difference. You see that in the estimates as to where we put that kind of funding. That is where we have community organisations dealing with the lower levels of abuse and neglect for these children, and that makes a difference.

Community organisations are, at times, able to get into people’s homes differently from, quite frankly, how social workers or police can. They can work with them in a different way and, at times, get different results from perhaps that social worker who is seen as being statutory.

That does not mean, of course, that social workers are not stepping in and, unfortunately, doing far too much of their share of this work—hence why we have put 96 more social workers in: 16 supervisors, with 80 more. Fifty-seven have now been appointed, which I am absolutely thrilled about. They are in positions, training up, and getting to know the system. What we also need to do is look carefully at whom Child, Youth and Family is working with.

I know that the Opposition has expressed interest in this, and I think it really is an area that we are constantly looking at—whether there is any filtering done by police, for example, who make up something like, from memory, 76 percent of the notifications that are coming through. At the moment, if there is a child in the house—they do not even need to witness violence or anything else—the police pass that notification directly on to Child, Youth and Family.

We need to actually have that discussion and that debate as to whether or not there should be a little more filtering done at the police end, because, at the end of the day, you have social workers then spreading themselves across the board, and perhaps working on cases that they do not need to, and, as a consequence, you get a number of false positives.

Certainly, what you see coming out of submissions is the debate around targeting. You have universal services that cross across health, education, and, of course, social development, but, equally, you then need to look at whom you are targeting. So if there is anything in that work that you are doing within Child, Youth and Family to prevent some of these children from being abused and neglected, it is looking at who they are and where they are, and then working it out and making sure we have got the absolute right service delivery from the right professionals around them.

This is a substantial portfolio—you could say with a substantial Minister, I suppose, if you had a sense of humour—so what it needs is that concerted vision and approach to it from all directions—

[Continuation line: Jacinda Ardern]

ESTIMATES DEBATE

In Committee

JACINDA ARDERN (Labour): I appreciate the Minister for Social Development outlining for us some of the reasons behind the dramatic increase in child protection notifications that we have seen in recent times—and they are dramatic. I know she acknowledges that and the different reasons for that, but I still have grave concerns over the workload that our Child, Youth and Family and our front-line social workers currently have and whether or not, in essence, 50 new social workers is enough to deal with the massive demand that we have.

It is timely that we are here in this Chamber discussing the state of children, given that the submission on vulnerable children was released today. I look forward to responding to that in further detail…

Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.

The CHAIRPERSON (H V Ross Robertson): Kia ora tātou, nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. Honourable members, the House is in Committee on the Appropriation (2012/2013 Estimates) Bill , and it is resumed. Before the dinner break, the honourable member Jacinda Ardern was speaking and addressing the Committee. She was debating Vote Social Development and she has 4 minutes remaining if she wishes to seek the call.

JACINDA ARDERN: I was indeed addressing the Committee before the dinner break, and I do want to come back to the issue I was touching on, which was introduced by the Minister in the chair , the Hon Paula Bennett, and that was the issue of vulnerable children and the release today of the summary of submissions on the green paper on vulnerable children.

There has been an overwhelming response, I think it is fair to say, to the green paper on vulnerable children. Thousands of people have responded to the call on what it is that the Government should do in response to the issue of children’s well-being in New Zealand.

I applaud all those who took the time to be a part of that discussion. But, from what I saw, contained in those submissions were themes that I want to touch on.

One was the issue of universalism. It was the Minister herself who said: “Should we start targeting services in a more concentrated fashion towards those children whom we, the State, consider to be at risk?”. An overwhelming message from submitters was that we need to exercise caution in doing so, because, in fact, even the notion of vulnerability is very fraught.

All children, by default almost, are vulnerable by their very nature. So narrowing the targeting of services is a fraught business and we need to exercise caution there. They also raised the issue of bipartisanship; they wanted parties to work together. The primary reason for that, I think, was to see enduring solutions around child poverty and children’s well-being generally.

So that is something on which I again extend the offer that Labour extended under Annette King when she was the spokesperson for social development, and that I again extend as Labour’s spokesperson—that we are happy to work with this Government on issues relating to children’s well-being.

But I do so with the one disclaimer: we think the bar needs to be raised. The green paper highlighted the issues that the National Government wanted to focus on when it comes to what it perceives to be vulnerable children: information sharing, mandatory reporting, and the way the agencies are engaging with families. Our contention has been that we need to take a much broader approach when it comes to the well-being of children.

We need to look at issues like income adequacy, poverty, housing, health, and education. These are all things that we know have an impact on children’s well-being or otherwise, and to ignore those and simply hone in, in the way that this Government has, is at our peril and to the detriment of our children; in fact, we pay for it down the track.

If I were to pick out one issue in particular that the Labour Party, as part of its core fundamental values on fairness and social justice is concerned about, it is the issue of child poverty.

I asked the Minister in question time today a very simple question: “How many children in New Zealand are living in poverty?”. The answer was: “We don’t have an official measure in New Zealand.” My question would be, if Unicef is able to produce a scorecard by which it measures every OECD nation on what it considers to be a fair and reasonable measure of child poverty, surely this Government—if it claims that poverty is a priority issue—would have at least an interest in knowing how many children in this country are living in poverty.

But the message that we got back from the Minister today was that knowing how many children are in poverty is not a priority. I really question, if the Minister does not want to know how many children are there, how is she possibly concerned with even getting them out of that situation? Forgive my cynicism, but if this Government is unwilling to at least put a figure on this issue, or even try, we are never going to at least see a target around the 270,000 children living in poverty.

KEVIN HAGUE (Green): It is a pleasure to take a call in this debate. I think my contribution will mesh nicely with that of the Minister for Social Development and of Ms Ardern; I am not so sure that it will mesh all that nicely with Sam Lotu-Iiga’s contribution.

The Minister referred to the publication today of the summary of submissions on the green paper.

I want to take that as my starting point, because while we have had this consultation with the public around the Green Paper for Vulnerable Children, we have also had the Māori Affairs Committee considering what needs to be done for Māori children, and I sit on the Health Committee, which is engaged in an inquiry into practical steps for improving child health outcomes and reducing child abuse. Many of the submitters to those three processes have been expressing some degree of bewilderment and, sometimes, frustration about the fact that there are three processes.

I think what this amounts to is that actually for people in the community, their lives are being lived in an entirely unsiloed way, whereas our response as a Parliament, and the State’s response to people’s needs, is instead fragmented and broken into silos. I guess those three inquiries are emblematic of exactly that issue.

What we have is a situation where the challenges that people face are not well-met by that fragmented response by the State.

What we need to do is to find ways of working across silos, working in a cross-sectoral way, to address the needs that people have.

It is no surprise to anyone working in any of those three areas, including the area that we are looking at now of social development, that the families and the communities who have the greatest needs in the social development area are the very same ones who have the greatest needs in health, or, indeed, in housing or in education.

We need to find a way of addressing problems that addresses those heart problems, because those communities are typically Māori communities, Pasifika communities, poor communities, or communities marginalised in some other way. So those issues are the ones that we need to address.

In the area that I know best, health, that problem that we are facing in social development and in those other sectors is an increasing problem. These problems of the gaps, the inequalities in outcomes, and the way in which inequalities drive worse outcomes—so both in the causes and the effects—are becoming worse. We are seeing worse health outcomes for the poorest and the most marginalised, and the same is the case in those other sectors. It is an increasing problem, and one that we need to deal with.

In years gone by, I worked across sectors trying to get cross-sectoral collaboration. Although there was generally agreement that this was a good thing to do, it was typically a very hard thing to have happen, because nobody had the resources to make it happen.

If I can now just give some praise to the last Labour Government, because in its very last term of Government, it actually changed that. The Ministry of Social Development had, for the first time, the mandate to facilitate and fund cross-sectoral collaboration.

I believe that if there is an opportunity that arises from having these parallel inquiries and these parallel processes going on, it must be this: to, again, find a way of making cross-sectoral collaboration actually happen on the ground.

I acknowledge the Minister’s recognition of the value of cross-party collaboration.

I recognise Jacinda Ardern’s call for that same thing.

I suggest to the Government that here is a great opportunity to make something of these inquiries, and to call on other parties to collaborate.