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Whanau Ora: privatisation by stealth

Written By: - Date published: 9:01 am, December 21st, 2009 - 20 comments
Categories: poverty, privatisation, public services - Tags:

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.


20 comments on “Whanau Ora: privatisation by stealth”

  1. Bill 1

    From memory, even G. Bush backed off from privatising welfare.

    I very much doubt that ‘community groups’ as you envisage them that will be the providers. This is doubtless a money making scheme that will snaffled by corporate type entities. Or religious entities.

    The bottom line is that nothing will be proposed that ushers in any sense of empowerment at the community level.

  2. Tigger 2

    Private groups come with private agendas. Here we’re seeing money given to groups with an agenda based on ethnicity/race. Prior to the election Key spoke of allowing religious based groups into the mix. This is all well and good but these services shouldn’t come with an agenda. It’s a recipe for inequality of service. For example, will you only be able to access the service if you recognise an iwi? Will Parents Inc require you to abide by a set of religious based terms before you can access their services (and will gay parents even be welcome?).

    I’m all for approaches that recognise diversity – but not like this.

  3. zelda 3

    It will be the new ‘Donna Huata’ type organisations that will proper under this.
    Willy Jackson and David Tamihere and their groups must be rubbing their hands together

    • Tigger 3.1

      John Tamihere will be also, no doubt. 🙂

      Yep, expect some right-wing Maori interests to take over welfare. Not good.

  4. Bill 4

    How about a recital of the lords prayer before the cheque is handed over?
    How about a urine test to make sure you ain’t spending that cheque on alcofuel? Compulsory attendance at ‘Right Living’ seminars that will instil the correct attitude about your poverty, anyone?
    How about receipts to prove correct, right and proper purchases?

    Who will write the rules? The providers? What happens to current legislation? How will advocacy groups operate when there are multiple agencies with multiple agendas and rule (policy) books?

    • Who will write the rules? The providers? What happens to current legislation? How will advocacy groups operate when there are multiple agencies with multiple agendas and rule (policy) books?

      They’ll break down of course as the costs of a many to many relationship far exceed their revenue.

  5. prism 5

    “Private groups come with private agendas. Here we’re seeing money given to groups with an agenda based on ethnicity/race. ”

    The trouble is that ethnicity/race can make a difference as to what is needed as far as government involvement in
    spending for all people is concerned. This spending goes beyond welfare but that is a huge part of govt citizen spending.
    When Labour tried to recognise need for policies related to ethnicity and target proposals to deal with such problems they got criticised. One group refused to utilise one scheme which offered a bonus for finding work for Maori.
    Going all reverse pc and not wanting to show preference for ethnicity when dealing with problems indicated by statistics such as unemployment and being forced into universality means that money isn’t applied to where it could most help and is most wanted.
    Maori have recognised this and want funds for the many projects they run for themselves which have been starved for so long.
    However there needs to be oversight, monitoring and accountability. It is too easy to be seduced into spending like the rich, they live in a different reality. Donna and $80 underpants and ties and $1000 suits and beamers twinkle brightly – the baubles of power and guaranteed funding need to be resisted.

    • Tigger 5.1

      So why is English talking of reducing compliance expectations?

      It’s because it’s a rort for private business, rolled up in Maori sheep’s clothing.

  6. tc 6

    More of the same…..this is about making the MP feel they’re getting something so the rollovers will continue without question.

    Nat’s don’t care who dishes what out and on what basis…..it’ll be speak to the hand it’s all an issue for the ‘provider’…….so the likes of Destiny not only suck off their followers but also the taxpayer…..scary indeed.

    • prism 6.1

      Don’t let Destiny turn to density (as in Back to the Future if you remember that bit). There are great things going on in Maoriland that shouldn’t be over-shadowed by sharply dressed, charismatic men and women of confidence. Besides all the talkback chat, there is real work going on with sterling people and money to assist them to continue and expand their programmes will not be wasted.
      Incidentally I am not Maori or PI, know my whakapapa and there isn’t Maori at all in it, but I want NZ to be a better place and perceive Maori to be the ones to show us the way. They will, given the necessaries to achieve that.

  7. randal 7

    we wish you a merry xmas and ahapy new year.
    send me some shares.

  8. Hugh 8

    Just remember that the private groups will not be large corporations like Fonterra or Telecom, but iwi. Iwi have a long history of responsibly helping out maori people in need, and they have done bloody well without any government support – so a little bit of government support would go a long way, since the networks and procedures are already in place.

    To imply that iwi would exclude people in need is not only insulting towards the principles of Maori law and good governance it’s calling into question the very basis of the Treaty of Waitangi, which is based on the premise that iwi will work in good faith towards making New Zealand a better place.

    • BLiP 8.1

      Throwing kahu huruhuru over privatisation does not make privatisation acceptable.

    • Bright Red 8.2

      so, your argument, Hugh, is ‘trust them’.

      Sorry, but when it comes to public money, I want checks and balances, not blind trust.

    • Swampy 8.3

      Ah, some common sense at last in this thread. Exactly what is wrong with iwi agencies doing the work with their own people?

      I think that fundamentally this is a political argument. Iwi leadership is not exactly known for their left wing perspective on how to help their people. They’re known for the most part to be pretty well anti welfare. Waiparareira (Urban iwi authority) is one of the best in the business.

      Because really that is what this policy is about, it is about Maori agencies doing it for their own people, which the Maori Party has a lot of knowledge and experience of, and which is proven to work.

  9. Bomber 9

    The beauty for National in having the relationship with the Maori Party is that it gives the pretense that National are moderate, likewise the beauty of having the Maori Party front foot this privatization of social welfare is that it doesn’t look like the radical free market economic policy as social policy that it actually is.

  10. BLiP 10

    As Basher Bennett et al start contracting out social services, lets bear in mind what happens when private organisations are given the reigns. The IHC case is the direct result of National Ltd® turfing out the mental hospital patients without sufficient community funding to provide for their care. The patients suffer and the staff suffer then, when it all collapses around them, the tax payer suffers.

    How can National Ltd® even be contemplating this sort of nonsense as the results of their previous actions come home to roost?

    • Chess Player 10.1

      “The IHC case is the direct result of National Ltd® turfing out the mental hospital patients without sufficient community funding to provide for their care. The patients suffer …..”

      I don’t disagree with you that certain sectors are under funded (or more accurately, that certain sectors don’t get the funding intended for them – because it doesn’t ‘trickle down’ past the bureaucrats), but I suggest you get up to speed with the language before you start confusing people with a Disability with the Mentally Ill…

      This may help…


      • BLiP 10.1.1

        fair nuff – my bad. Although, I understand that, by far, the bulk of the sleep overs were in houses for the intellectually other-abled. But, thanks for the reminder to watch the P’s and Q’s in this area.

  11. The Chairman 11

    It’s New Zealand’s version of the UK’s family intervention programme.


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