The government is beginning to explain more about its Whanau Ora plan, although it is still startlingly vague considering we’re talking a billion dollars of taxpayer dollars a year.
The idea seems to be to get more money that is currently spent by social welfare departments passed on to private community groups, who will supposedly deliver a holistic approach. Why they don’t just build on Labour’s work in getting government agencies to present a single face to families in need, I don’t know. It seems like privatisation for its own sake.
To make it easier for private groups to get public money, Bill English is proposing relaxing reporting requirements for private community organisations that are contracted to deliver services using public money. For some reason, English thinks that removing accountability requirements will increase accountability.
I’m struggling to understand how adding a layer of money-passing before the resources get to the to people in need and removing accountability will lead to better outcomes. Are we just to take it on trust that private groups will spend public money well and in the public interest?
There’s a bloody good reason to use government social welfare departments as the prime deliverers of assistance to families in need. Public money should be spent impartially, on the basis of need. Leaving it to private groups removes public accountability and means that people get help not necessarily on the basis of need but because they are the ‘right kind’ of person, the ‘deserving poor’. Will a Destiny Church-based welfare provider treat everyone equally or will it help those who adopt its religious beliefs? If there isn’t sufficient accountability standards, how will we stop them abusing our money like this?
Let me make clear that I know most community groups do excellent work and are staffed by fine people. But that doesn’t mean we just take it on trust that this is always the case. We need accountability to protect against abuse.
It looks like National and the Maori Party want to write a blank cheque for private groups and leaving it open for those groups to abuse our money and our trust to further their private interests. As far as I can tell, the only reason for this is an ideological assumption by the government that privatisation is best. In reality (like all privatisation) it will be a rogue’s charter, an invitation for unscrupulous people to rip us off.