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As we look forward to Christmas and summer holidays, most of us are conscious that as well as the fun, food and family time we can anticipate pressure on the bank account.  It’s an expensive time of year.

Middle class families are feeling the cost of living pressures, especially at the fuel pump, but the season is especially challenging for those in need.

Sadly, despite all the caring rhetoric from the current government, the numbers of people seriously struggling in New Zealand is increasing.  There are more than 22,000 extra people on the dole than when Ms Ardern came into office and the social housing waiting list has more than doubled, while seven of the nine child poverty indicators are worse. 

In Opposition we can’t make immediate changes to improve things for Kiwis, but we can hold the Government to account for failing to deliver on its promises, and just as importantly we can think through our plans for government and propose new ideas.

Recently National released its fifth Discussion Document which focusses on social services and outlines policies and proposals to enable more Kiwis to gain economic independence and lead better lives.

Our starting point is the conviction that people should be in the driver’s seat of their own lives, keeping more of what they earn because we know families know their own needs best.

We also understand that sometimes people need help to get back on their feet. And because that help is paid for through the taxes paid by all New Zealanders – there needs to be accountability and obligations met in return.  

National’s plan for social services will focus on our transformative Social Investment approach, providing tailored, targeted solutions to the social and economic challenges Kiwis face, rather than spreading a whole lot of money thinly across broad sections of society, regardless of need.

So we have committed to reintroduce the Social Investment approach that Bill English pioneered.

We’ll set targets to ensure the number of children in benefit-dependent homes is reduced; we will ensure gang members and associates can’t access welfare if they’ve got illegal income; we will partner with Community Housing Providers to ensure local solutions to local housing challenges and support Housing First to move people off the street and into stable housing.

Knowing that the early months and years are critical to a child’s development, we will increase postnatal care to three days of fully-funded care in a facility of the mother’s choosing and ensure paid parental leave can be split between parents and taken together.

People often want to help, but don’t know how.  One easy thing to do is to go online to National.org.nz and click on the Social Services Discussion Document, then give us some feedback on the many questions we’re asking.   This is just a selection:

  • How can the welfare system be simplified;
  • Should there be a time limit on the dole for those under the age of 25;
  • Should we extend the use of money management to all beneficiaries under age 20, and those up to age 25 who don’t fulfil their obligations;
  • Does it make sense to spend a lot of money providing intensive, wraparound services for parents under 20 to ensure they achieve NCEA Level 2;
  • Should we invest in improving antenatal and postnatal education for parents;
  • What priority should we put on investing in better ways to support people with dementia
  • Should we prioritise increasing support for foster parents and grandparents raising grandchildren?
  • Should the universal baby bonus be cancelled, freeing up money for more targeting assistance?

The Social Services discussion document is part of the biggest policy development process by an Opposition ever.  We’re doing the work now in Opposition so we’re ready to hit the ground running in 2020.

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