The Greens on National’s data collection enforcement and Community Groups

Written By: - Date published: 8:34 am, November 7th, 2016 - 27 comments
Categories: Abuse of power - Tags: , , ,

Last week Green Party Spokesperson for Social Development Jan Logie outlined the problems with National’s data collection policy,

No data, no funding. That’s just wrong.

The National Government recently announced that they will be requiring community organisations to hand over client information to the government to get funding. Services such as women’s refuges and budgeting agencies will have to share “client-level data” as a condition of funding. I’ve been hearing a lot of concerns about this. Social workers and counsellors are really worried that this will break down the relationship of trust they have with their clients.

I was at a national social services conference last week and Associate Professor Nicola Atwool reminded everyone that according to research the critical factor in determining the effectiveness of a service or intervention is the quality of the relationship. It’s not data, it’s not ticking boxes, or fancy formulas. It’s relationship.

Confidentiality is an absolute cornerstone of social work, budgeting, and counselling – with the caveat that you’ll be obliged to break confidentiality if you believe a person is a risk to themselves or someone else.

Today, I asked the Minister about this policy and first she replied saying it was all about getting great public services and then later it’s all about making sure people don’t fall through the cracks and get hurt.

The Minister’s safety concerns don’t really stack up. There is plenty of evidence of information having been shared or available in risky cases but because there wasn’t, for example, an understanding of the risk, the staff were too overworked, or there wasn’t trust between the agencies, people weren’t properly protected anyway. Women and children have been killed despite all the agencies having the information.

It’s also very worrying if the Minister is suggesting that someone turning up at refuge might go into the system and trigger a response somewhere else in the system, without her knowledge or agreement.

I understand there is greater pressure for sharing of this information, and that some sharing has been happening already. In the old days, we used to sit down with a woman and talk things through and find out what she needed. She/we would often involve other people but by the woman agreeing to this there was a much better chance of that being a helpful experience.

The Government isn’t being clear about what it’s intent is in making these changes. The community agencies aren’t being told what will happen with the information. This does make me wonder how clients will properly give consent if they’re not told exactly what will happen with the information.

What on earth will the government do with that level of individual data? Are they developing a computer system that will track every public and community service we engage with in the future? Will my RealMe file become a dossier of all the services and how much I’ve cost the State? It seems improbable that the Government will be even able to analyse all that individual data when it can’t even sign the community groups contracts and deliver the funding on time.

I once accessed counselling for a mental health issue. It took me a very long time to book that first appointment. It’s a scary thing to do just in itself, but I was also reluctant to go for help because I was worried that I would get a diagnosis that would follow me around for the rest of my life.  The thought of that information going wider, even if you’re given assurances of privacy, may well act as a barrier to some people getting the help they need.

How is someone who is doing something illegal in one sphere of their life, but wanting help in another sphere, going to feel about coming to get help from a community group? I thought the Government’s reforms were supposed to be targeting the most vulnerable (a concept I dispute). The people with the biggest challenges in life often have the worst experiences with government and subsequently the most fear of government.

The Green Party has developed a petition to the Minister asking the Government to stop making community groups hand over client’s information. Please sign and share.

27 comments on “The Greens on National’s data collection enforcement and Community Groups”

  1. dv 1

    This is from the Govt that can’t get payrolls right.
    Allows Bennet to access private records.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      This is from the Govt that can’t get payrolls right.

      Wish people would stop saying that. Yes, the government made mistakes but it was the private firm that actually stuffed it up.

  2. Michelle 2

    This is from a Govt that promised us higher standards and ethics and the Saudi sheep deal is not higher standards and very questionable ethical behavior.

  3. Takere 3

    With all Contracted Services with MSD, there is a condition for information to be shared. It’s a standard clause.

    So the question needed to be asked is, what further information is it they want? And, they should then be directed to the individual as it becomes a privacy issue between MSD & the individual, who has already signed their benefit documents when they first applied for any assistance.

    This is overreach? A Privacy issue between the individual & MSD, not the service provider I would think.

    If the recipient of the service provider is not on any welfare support, its a privacy issue between the individual and MSD and basically the can then tell MSD to go fish.

    Its obvious that this is MSD been a bunch of lazy dummies who are really thick? Or just pushing the envelope?

    • weka 3.1

      What do you mean by ‘Contracted Service’s? Is that a formal term? I wasn’t aware that community groups funded by the govt had to hand over client names, addresses etc before now.

      “If the recipient of the service provider is not on any welfare support, its a privacy issue between the individual and MSD and basically the can then tell MSD to go fish.”

      Um, no. All community groups will have to hand over data or not get funding. Individual privacy rights will be ignored if the community group does this, irrespective of where the individual gets their income from.

      Not sure why you are making a connection with beneficiaries here. eg A client of Women’s Refuge will have their details disclosed. What does being on a benefit have to do with it?

  4. Whispering Kate 4

    This Government loathes anybody who has to access social services. Our Government are the great punishers of our times – just love putting the boot into people who are needing help and will do anything to make their lives even more miserable than they are experiencing everyday.

    • Garibaldi 4.1

      Yes ,full marks to the Greens for doing something. This is a cruel and vindictive Govt., and when you look at the world they were brought up in and how they now actively destroy the chances they were given by a caring state, it is even more damning on their character.

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    I thought the Government’s reforms were supposed to be targeting the most vulnerable (a concept I dispute).

    National views the most vulnerable as the richest people in the country and so they work to protect them. Money going to beneficiaries isn’t money going to rich people as it should be thus the rich people are in danger of becoming poor.

  6. NZJester 6

    This is about saving money for the government by making people not want to access these services because they will give their data to the government.
    The loss of their trust in these services will mean lower numbers accessing them and the government being able to say that the reduced need is due to the fact the economy has improved and so the need has decreased.
    This is the government finding yet another way to game the statistics to make it look like things are improving, while they are getting worse every day.
    The current statistics of the high number of people currently needing to access these services have been a statistical thorn in their side when they are saying that everything is rosy in New Zealand.

    • weka 6.1

      hmm, not sure about the rationale of saving money. They’ll just end up spending more in other parts of the system. I think it’s more evil thank that, I think they want to control the population more, simple as that.

      • NZJester 6.1.1

        The other parts of the system however are better situated for their cronies to make money from such as with the increase in prison numbers. They will put it out to tender again for more prisons and I can see lots of in prison sweatshops being set up at some point also to make them money.

    • Macro 6.2

      The “rationale”, so I understand it, is to stop “double dipping”. Of course the keeper of the purse strings is not averse to that, in any way, shape, or form… Which is why he is know as “Double Dipton”..
      The need for some to seek assistance elsewhere, other than purely governmental departments, is a direct result of the increasing cuts in social/health spending and the increasing costs being faced by the a growing proportion of NZ society – despite the fantasies of National ideologues who say otherwise.
      This stupidity of Central Govt will result in a number of further failures in people becoming unable to access the help they desperately need. Not only women’s refuge, abuse counselling centres, help lines, and emergency housing providers, but also food banks will be all affected; as they all are dependent in some way on central Govt funding. It is thoroughly unethical and abusive – but so National, through and through.

      • weka 6.2.1

        How will this stop double dipping?

        • Macro

          Say a person goes to winz for an emergency grant, and then to the local food bank. the food bank is obliged to supply the name of this person back to Central Govt and what assistance they received. Next time the person goes to winz …. you get the picture? That actually is the rationale put out. That the emergency grant is insufficient, or delayed until such time that the beneficiary is in absolute dire straits is neither here nor there. They are in effect “double dipping” according to the Govt and we can’t have that!
          I hear a number of stories here from the local food bank wrt the growing problems they are facing. They are deeply concerned with respect to this proposal. They want none of it.

          • weka

            Fuck. Thanks, that’s a great explanation. I can’t begin to get my head around people working in the policy division of a social services govt department thinking that going to WINZ for a food grant and going to a food bank is double dipping, esp given there is a cap on the food grants. But that says more about me than the situation. The culture there is well and truly fucked. I wish the Greens would be more forth coming about what they will try and do in govt.

            • Macro

              We have had people desperate knocking on the door late at night for assistance because they have applied for an emergency grant but the local WINZ office has delayed the issuing of the Grant until its too late or it is just not enough.
              Yes there is a cap on the issuing of food parcels – but despite that the number being issued this year is way above that of last year and we are still 2 months away from years end – this is so right around the country. Here in Thames the number issued last year was 438 – this year we are over 540 at the end of Sept and the time of the most need (Xmas New Year) is before us. The food banks are running out – despite strong support from local business individuals and churches. 2 weeks ago the local Salvation Army Op Shop ran a sale from which all proceeds went to the food bank – over $4500 was raised – which will see us through for a while but it is always a stretch.

            • Macro

              Yes this really is a biggie! I’m pleased that it has been raised here on the Standard because it ultimately is about what sort of society we want, and it concerns all, who for whatever reason access some welfare provision for what ever reason.
              I heard today, and my daughter who is working with young people in this area, confirmed the number to me, that up to 1 in 4 young women today may have experienced some form of sexual abuse. The down stream implications of that are horrendous in form of counselling, mental health, etc. Much of that help will be provided by, to use the official jargon “Contracted Services with The MSD”. Should any of those young women also be seeking assistance in some other way, then that information too is to be communicated off to “Big Brother”. It is a huge invasion of privacy by the State and something to oppose vigourously.
              I’m pleased to see that Jan has take this issue on board and has begun a Petiton. I hope all Standard Readers take the time to sign it.

          • Patricia

            Most food banks are not funded by MSD so why would info re clients requiring food assistance be sent on ?
            Budget clients are not all on benefits ; some on wages and getting no help from WINZ. Why should their info be sent to MSD ?

            • weka

              It’s just the groups funded by government.

              Why should people who use a budget service who are on a benefit have their details sent to MSD?

              • Patricia

                No info should be sent to MSD about anybody. However when WINZ send their
                clients to budgeters that info is noted on client file. Sometimes WINZ case managers actually make the request for service.

                • weka

                  Yeah, but that’s a different thing than someone on a benefit going to a community group without a referral from WINZ and their details then being passed on to WINZ.

                  We need to be really careful here to not buy into the idea that the govt should be controlling beneficiaries.

            • Macro

              I’m using the food bank as an example Patricia yes after Turiana decided that she needed the money for whanau ora the supply of money to food banks started to dry up. However some still do receive some assistance. As with most non governmental service providers they don’t get all their funding from the one source. It’s a constant search for funding, and the Govt get welfare on the cheap.

  7. greywarshark 7

    Government by the people –
    Government of the people –
    Government over the people –
    Government oppresses the people’:?:’

  8. RedBaronCV 8

    And if someone attends say Rape Crisis then their name is logged for the world to see but the perpetrator, who may do this many times (and never face charges) and who causes a vast amount of social expenditure never gets tagged. Targeting effects not causes of problems.

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