A Hopeful Start – Budget 2019

Published on 4th Jul, 2019

New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services

The Coalition Government’s first Wellbeing Budget was unveiled in Parliament on Thursday May 30, 2019.

‘We are encouraged by the 2019 Wellbeing Budget and see hopeful signs for the future if this beginning is more strongly built on in future Budgets,’ said Trevor McGlinchey, Executive Officer, New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS). ‘The investment in our children, in addressing New Zealand’s mental health crisis, in family violence, in addictions and in supporting both Māori and Pasifika aspirations will make a positive difference in the lives of many of those who the NZCCSS member social service organisations serve.’

Real progress will be made when we, as a nation, also address the systemic drivers that lead to stress and lack of hope. It is these drivers which create the mental health issues, family violence and addictions in peoples’ lives. This budget does not provide for a significant increase of incomes for those on benefits. It provides little to address the huge housing need which underpins much of the lack of well-being experienced by poor New Zealanders. These are the significant changes we expect to see in future Budgets.

The increase in the range of services being provided over the next four years will provide much needed services in our communities. The roll-out of new services will provide some income streams for community/NGO social service providers who have been underfunded for many years. While some additional cost pressure funding is being made available for existing services, the totality of this funding will not address such factors as the pay differential between Oranga Tamariki and NGO employed social workers.

$26.7 million (over four years) to community organisations is welcomed by NZCCSS but is insufficient against a backdrop of decades of underfunding, and cost pressures, particularly those around wage increases. The community NGO social service sector plays a critical role in supporting the overall well-being of children and their families and whānau through the delivery of services that work across the continuum of need from early intervention through to complex and intensive services. Without sufficient funding, in an environment of increased government performance expectations, the sustainability of individual services will remain in question.

The Government’s flagship budget announcement went to mental health and addiction services. The announcement puts money behind Government’s acceptance of 38 of the 40 recommendations of He Ara Oranga (the report of the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction). The investment into mental health priority is worth $1.9b over five years and spans health, correction, housing, justice and education. NZCCSS supports this cross-government approach and level of investment but remains concerned the structural inequities that underpin many personal experiences of mental distress have not been addressed.

‘Overall, this Budget is investing more heavily in families and children than any Budgets in the recent past’, says Trevor McGlinchey. ‘While it may not be wholly transformational, particularly for those on benefits or access to affordable quality housing, it does provide a hopeful start to building well-being.’

NZCCSS represents the social services of Anglican, Baptist, Catholic Presbyterian, Methodist and Salvation Army churches.

Published in WelCom July 2019

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