Social Investment: Social Failure?

The terms ‘social’ and ‘investment’ are an unlikely combination. Proof economists have crossed the final frontier and sallied forth with their spreadsheets into social services. Social investment means, “investment to achieve better long-term results for people and helping them to become more independent. This reduces the number of New Zealanders relying on social services and the overall costs for taxpayers” (Treasury briefing paper on social investment 2016).

To be blunt, the social investment approach is too narrow and too nasty. It involves too much invasion of privacy, too much blame, too much resentment about sharing our collective wealth for our collective benefit. And it paves the way for government-funded social service delivery to be just another profit-making opportunity for overseas corporations. Continue reading

Over-balancing the Books

Good news, of sorts; the nation’s books balance, even over-balance. It transpires there is a spare $1.8 billion left in the coffers, according to our Minister of Finance Bill English.

If running our nation were a business, this would be a great success. But it is not a business. Our government’s job is not to make a profit. Our government’s job is to manage our collective wealth in a way that benefits everyone who lives here. Underspending has dire consequences. Continue reading

Likely Outcome Of Outcomes Model: Social Disaster

Our social services focused government departments have recently moved to an Outcomes Model. The Outcomes Model is supposed to result in improved efficiency and greater accountability from service providers. This should mean the government gets better value for its investment. Sounds good in theory. However, in the context of our neoliberal political environment, the Outcomes Model has the potential for social disaster.

Neoliberal governments are wedded to austerity and desperate to reduce social spending. It is couched in other terms, but the purpose for the change to the Outcomes Model is clear; the desired outcome is that people no longer use social services. Continue reading

Social Services: A Safe Bet, A Good Little Earner

The Minister of Social Development is clearly gearing up for TISA, (trades in services agreement). She announced recently that she was considering opening up government-funded social services to profit-making businesses – in other words, multinational corporations. Corporates seeking guaranteed profits from government coffers instead of gambling on the share markets or currency trading. Continue reading

Social Bond(age)

Not-for-Profits providing social services are not working hard enough, or smart enough. The people they support are not trying hard enough. Both need a corporate investor, whose profit margin is at stake, wielding a big stick to chivvy them along to lift their game. Hence the need for social bonds. Or so it is implied.

There are so many reasons why social bonds are a bad idea, and downright insulting to both service provider and service users, it is hard to know where to start. Continue reading

Home help for elderly cuts a disgrace

The Alliance Party says decisions to cut home help services for the elderly are an indictment on the National Government.

Alliance Party co-leader Kay Murray says it is a disgraceful situation that basic home help services to the elderly in Otago and Southland are being cut due to inadequate funding.

The Otago and Southland district health boards confirmed yesterday that housework help for the elderly will be cut, to save about $4 million a year.

1500 people in Otago and 500 Southlanders will receive letters telling them the service is to be discontinued.

Ms Murray rejected the attitude that there was a lack of money for such services.

“We are now in the position in Dunedin where the wellbeing of our elderly people has been downgraded to an optional luxury, and optional luxuries such as a rugby stadium get handouts of millions from central Government.”

“The Government conjured up $15 million for the stadium, which would pay for almost four years of home help services for the frail elderly. The priorities are dreadfully wrong.”

Ms Murray says that with unemployment at its highest for years, at nearly 170 000 New Zealanders out of work, there was an easy solution – pay unemployed care workers a decent wage to provide home help for the elderly.

She asked what local National list MP Michael Woodhouse was doing to represent his elderly voters at the Government level.

“Elderly people have obviously found the services useful and necessary up to now, and the idea that a full assessment of elderly people’s needs can be made via a phone interview seems like a return to the worst days of the 1990s under National’s callous rule.”

“We are in a position thanks to the free market policies of successive National and Labour Government’s where many families have to have two working adults to survive, many employed on irregular hours or shift work, many in casual jobs.”

These most vulnerable families would be hard pressed to be able to support elderly family members, she says.

Ms Murray says the Government’s ongoing mania for tax cuts was threatening the social fabric of New Zealand by starving vital basic services of funding.

“New Zealanders have to realize that tax cuts are directly connected to situations like this – their elderly relatives being unable to access home help because of budget cuts.”

Ms Murray says the Alliance would like to see funding for health ring fenced at an appropriate percentage of GDP, guaranteeing a first class public health system.

Proposed GST rise will hurt bulk funded social services

The Alliance Party says a rise in GST would impact on bulk-funded organizations in the disability, elderly and social services sector.

Alliance Party co leader Kay Murray says these organizations have to pay GST on their total funding, but cannot claim most of the GST component back because the majority of their costs are staff wages.

“Staff wages are exempt from GST, so the proposed increase in GST will represent a funding cut to these services of close to 3%.”

Ms Murray says the majority of these organizations are Not for Profit.

Unless extra funding is provided, they will be disadvantaged by a rise in GST.

She says that some organizations, particularly in the disability sector, have not seen an increase in funding for existing services for close to a decade.

“What will a rise in GST mean for their workforce who are among the lowest paid in the country? Will they see a further decline in their wages and conditions? Will they be hit twice, once through the decline in their own spending power, and again through the decline in the spending power of their employers?”

The Alliance opposes any rise in GST and supports phasing out GST to be replaced with a progressive tax system that includes a “Robin Hood” tax on financial transactions and capital gains taxes on property excluding the family home.