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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.143

    26 April, 2001

  • davidwhytecrossing-sm.jpg - 5145 BytesREVIEW
    Crossing The Unknown Sea
    by David Whyte
    Redefining Work and Identity

    The Community and Voluntary Sector Working Party has reported to government. It says that, at this stage, it does not support a formal partnership agreement between government and the community sector (as was envisioned when the working party was convened last year). However, the working party suggests there is "... substantial and important work that can be done to develop a robust and respectful framework of relationships."

    The 204-pg report "Communities and Government —Potential for Partnership" is critical of the "culture" of government and its treatment of the community sector over the last two decades. It recommends a number of significant changes to be made that will improve the relationship between government and the community sector in the future.

    The report acknowledges that "… a substantial change in funding delivery practice and underlying relationships is required. The functioning of a healthy, democratic society is dependent on both the community sector and government having the resources to work together to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes."

  • In drawing up its recommendations, the working party canvassed community service providers, accepted submissions and held over two dozen meetings that asked participants: What would a good relationship between the government and your organisation look like? What are the existing barriers to such a relationship and how could they be removed?

    This process revealed a deep frustration experienced by the community sector. A common thread in the report is that community views and concerns have been met with unresponsiveness and a "culture of contempt" from government departments. The report: "There is a sense that the voluntary sector is considered to be second rate."

    The working party concluded there were five significant problems in the relationship between government and the community sector:
    — concerns about the relationship between the Crown and iwi and how it effects the Maori desire for self-determination and control over their resources and the policies affecting their future and wellbeing;
    — a sense of having been excluded from key policy decisions and a desire for a more participatory style of government;
    — frustration with government funding arrangements, in particular strong opposition to the "contracting model";
    — a concern about the health and strength of the community sectors and their ability to pursue their own goals;
    — "the "culture of government" — the attitudes and behaviour of government agencies and officials and their lack of understanding of iwi and the community sector.

  • The report highlights fundamental areas of concern:
    — iwi/Maori groups do not want to be grouped into the broad category of "community groups" but that they should have a special relationship with the Crown based on the Treaty
    of Waitangi.
    — many people in the community sector feel their expertise and knowledge is ignored by government agencies and that the state sectors reforms have distanced government decision making from them.
    — the contracting model of funding is particularly disliked. It creates a power imbalance between the funder and the funded; the community sector has no ability to influence the funding cycles; it creates an inappropriate environment of competitiveness among community organisations; and it takes a piecemeal or "spare parts" approach to welfare services rather than a holistic one.
    — there is a need to strengthen the community sector. "Many organisations face a constant battle to break even. Beneath the surface, the viability of many groups is uncertain."

  • The working party says it did not find coherence across the community sector. Because of this, it has not recommended that the government signs a formal agreement with the community sector.

    The report: "Developing effective working relationships between government and iwi/Maori, community and voluntary organisations requires both immediate steps and a substantial commitment over time — a "journey" in which the partners work together to develop trust and understanding through shared experience. The working party acknowledged the pressure from many in government and in the community for visible and specific action right now. This initial review has, however, demonstrated the need for ongoing development of particular streams of work to enable stronger relations to emerge and flourish ..."

  • The working party proposes that the government shows its good faith by preparing and signing a Statement of Intent that indicates a commitment to building its relationship with the community sector. The other immediate recommendation is for the government to take "...steps that will contribute immediately to rebuilding effective relationships."

    The longer-term proposal is for the government to set up a Steering Group to co-ordinate what it calls the Way Forward. The report recommends establishing a high level, highly mandated body, "such as the Treaty of Waitangi Commission," to consider such issues as iwi self-determination, constitutional change and ways of implementing agreed outcomes.

  • Further recommendations in the working party's report include:
    Developing participatory democracy by establishing a government funded, community-run database of iwi and other community individuals who are available to undertake policy and research work. The community sector should be routinely considered, along with other specialists, when advice is prepared for crown ministers.
    — Reviewing resourcing and accountability arrangements by making the reporting requirements appropriate to the level of funding; contracts assuming three to five years of funding; contracts allowing for a component that recognises administrative and overhead costs; and government funders reporting only the proportion of outcomes of a project that they have actually funded. The report also recommends that the COGs budget be immediately be increased 50% (to $15 million) and the Contributory Funding pool be transferred away from CYPS to where it can be focused on community initiated activities.
    Strengthening the community sector by providing viable funding for social service umbrella groups.
    Improving the ability of central government to understand and work with community organisations by seeing that when recruiting staff, government departments acknowledge work experience in the community sector; departmental staff training includes introduction to relevant community organisations; and quality training of departmental staff ensures that information provided over the counter is consistent and does not vary according to `who you get in the office on the day'.

  • The full "Communities and Government Potential for Partnership" report is available on the web at

    " Community organisations want fundamental, long-term change in their relationship with central Government. The need for a fundamental change is the key message from this report which examines how central government treats community organisations. In the last 15 years, under successive governments, community and voluntary organisations have felt significant anger and resentment at the way they have been dealt with. We heard very strong messages about this from communities from the top to the bottom of the country.

    " They have been continually treated as though their experience and knowledge is second rate, treated with `a culture of contempt.' They have been told what to do, how to do it and made fearful about criticising government policy. They have been put through extraordinary hoops to get relatively small amounts of money to deliver services for the benefit of their communities.

    " What the community organisations are looking for is a fundamental long term change, of processes, of culture, of behaviour. They want to get past rhetoric to practical improvements which will start to build trust and mutual respect ..."
    Dorothy Wilson, chair of Community and Voluntary Sector Working Party

    " The report provides a catalyst for very necessary change. The several strands of work it outlines provide a robust plan for the Government and the sector to work in partnership to give them a sustainable long-term base from which to build.

    " The Government intends studying the report in detail and a formal Government response will be made in June ..."
    Steve Maharey Minister of Community and Voluntary Sector

    " This is a thorough and robust report. The Working Party has obviously listened and reflected on the hurt and serious concerns that the sector has been voicing over the past decade. When put alongside the Mick Brown review of Child Youth and Family, there is mounting pressure for the government to change the way it values and works with the community sector. These reports offer a platform to move forward and develop a more trustful and respectful relationship ..."
    John Elvidge, chairperson of New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services

    " It presents a challenge for government to work in a co-ordinated way across government departments and political parties. This is something the community has been asking for, it requires a fundamental shift in current practices and an opportunity for government to demonstrate its commitment to the sector ..."
    Don Borrie, Chairperson of New Zealand Council of Social Services.

    " The sector expects long term and lasting improvement in their relationship with government, and we want long term commitment to the recommendations in this report. We urge a cross party strategy to implement the recommendations ..."
    Julie McGowan, President of New Zealand Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisations.

    " The working party found widespread disenchantment and mistrust of the state's heavy hand. The sector's multifarious inhabitants are looking first for a statement of good intentions from the Government. If Mr Maharey wants the "trust, accountability and respect" he has said he seeks, he will have little alternative but to oblige.

    " 'Partnership' implies equals and, though the state cannot in the crunch be equal with subnational organisations, he will have to recognise their independence and offer participation in policy and decision-making, plus flexible outcomes-based funding.

    " Mr Maharey personally should have little difficulty with this but he may find it hard to engender in some of his colleagues the risky shift of mentality it implies and requires. And, the working party has found, he will need a lot more work outside the bureaucracy to develop workable new mechanisms ..."
    Colin James, New Zealand Herald columnist

    The coalition government will soon launch a $2-to-$3 million scheme to help students find jobs. The Sunday Star-Times reported earlier this month that Alliance leader and Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton will be setting aside up to $3 million of economic development money for a government-industry drive to get students work, especially in industries with labour shortages such as forestry and dairy farming.

    Anderton says that he is considering introducing job subsidies for the programme, but would prefer to get students into fully paid jobs. The government and industry could meet some of the costs if students needed to travel to work.

    Anderton is also sounding out the possibility of establishing a "national centre for work experience", based on a model used in the UK. This centre would work with the private sector to help students develop skills in their chosen field, with the possibility of gaining a permanent position. It could also offer scholarships to help pay for further education costs.

  • Meanwhile, Guyon Espiner of the Sunday Star-Times reports that the Alliance has lost its battle with Labour to restore the Emergency Unemployment Benefit (UEB) to students. Student leaders have vowed not to let another summer break go by without students having access to the income support. Reinstating the EUB for students would cost $11—$18 million.

    Anderton says that "having fought the good fight" on this issue, he has now turned his attention to a real drive for jobs for students. Anderton: "If we can't win that battle, there needs to be some other initiative that deals proactively with this problem students have, and I'm turning my attention to something more productive than the EUB..."

    Source — Sunday Star-Times 15 April 2001 "Alliance backs student job scheme" by Guyon Espiner

    The Auckland District Health Board has 450 staff vacancies — a number equal to nearly 7% of its workforce. A report to Parliament's health committee shows that the biggest number of vacancies is amongst nursing staff, where there are 280 jobs unfilled. Other shortages: 35 jobs for medical staff, 90 for technical staff, 25 for "hotel" workers and 20 for administrative personnel.

    Staff shortages are a problem for Auckland Healthcare in a number of key areas including pathology, anaesthetics, mental health and radiation oncology. Auckland Healthcare was this month forced to cut cancer treatment because a chronic shortage of radiation staff had reached crisis point. At Auckland Hospital, the proportion of patients waiting for treatment for four weeks or more rose from 46% at June last year to 64% at the end of last month.

    Source — New Zealand Herald 12 April 2001 "450 hospital jobs unfilled"

    The NZ Medical Association is also warning that urgent action is needed to prevent a medical staffing crisis across the country. A Medical Council survey released last month reveals that there has been only limited growth in the number of general practitioners over the last three years, and that fewer NZ-trained medical graduates are staying to work in this country. NZMA Chairman Dr Pippa MacKay says that the survey confirms fears that "... not only is NZ a thriving exporter of wine and fashion, but of doctors as well."

    MacKay: "High student debt not only encourages newly graduated doctors to work overseas, for those who remain it affects their choice of specialty. Hospitals struggle to attract registrars in many areas. Rural and regional areas are hit particularly hard by shortages. For resident medical officers, low pay, excessive hours, unreasonable conditions, and the increasing need to cover staff shortfalls, now combined with high student debts, are all good reasons to start looking overseas."

    The NZMA is strongly urging the government to take more responsibility for staffing issues, which it says constitute a national problem, and not just an issue for under-funded District Health Boards.

    Source — Press Release 8 March 2001 "NZMA calls for urgent workforce action" by NZMA

    The National party claims that "green dollar" trading is costing the government millions of dollars in tax every year. Green dollar trading systems facilitate the barter of goods and services between members, instead of paying for transactions with ordinary money.

    The National Party's revenue spokesperson, Annabel Young, is calling on the Inland Revenue Department to investigate those involved in the practice, which she is claiming makes up "... a substantial portion of the estimated $9 billion black market". Young says the IRD needs to ensure people in the green market are paying tax on their transactions, and recommends it should carry out "sting" operations.

    Source — 20 April 2001 "Nats target green dollar" by Allen Walley

    The Community Employment Group (CEG) has announced its appointment of regional managers. They are:

    Te Tai Tokerau (Auckland): Amokura Panoho, formerly a CEG field co-ordinator.

    Waikato/East Cape: Pierre Henare, formerly a CEG field co-ordinator.

    Taranaki/Nelson/Marlborough: Steve Bill, formerly manager of Workplace Learning _ a Trust involved in Literacy and Numeracy training.

    Canterbury/Otago/West Coast: Jay Sepie, formerly CEG interim business analyst

    Source — Charlie Moore, General Manager of CEG 10 April 2001

    Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel and Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton have announced they are drawing up new immigration rules which will make it easier for local industries facing a shortage of skilled workers to bring in skilled overseas workers.

    The provisions - which will apply to both temporary entry and permanent residence policies — will be similar to existing ones that facilitate the entry of skilled IT staff. Industry groups will be able to approach the Minister of Immigration to seek exceptions to normal immigration critieria, and these cases will be vetted by the Ministry for Economic Development.

    But the industries will need to satisfy the Government that they can't find people in this country with the necessary skills. In a joint press release, Dalziel and Anderton say: "We would need to be satisfied that there was a genuine shortage of skill and that the sector contributes to New Zealand's economic development. Industry groups will need to provide clear reasons why a special provision would be needed."

    Source — 19 April 2001 "Immigration exemptions for skill-strapped industries" by Patric Lane

    Earlier this year, there was widespread concern reported in the media in Christchurch that a shortage of qualified and experienced workers was restricting employment and business growth in the city. In response to these concerns, the Christchurch Taskforce on Poverty commissioned a survey to quantify the extent of the shortage.

    The survey was undertaken by a team of researchers at the University of Canterbury led by Dr Paul Dalziel. It took the number of employers who advertised one or more vacant positions in the Christchurch Press one Saturday in January as its survey population. These employers were all contacted and asked to complete a questionaire. Dalziel reports that the response rate was very high (73%), indicating perhaps just how important this issue is for Christchurch employers.

    Despite the widespread view that there was a shortage of qualified and experienced workers in Christchurch, only 4% of the employers surveyed said it was "impossible" to fill an advertised vacancy with a suitably qualified person. More than half the surveyed respondents, however, described the task of filling their vacancies as "difficult".

    Other findings in the survey:
    — Nearly two-thirds of the applicants for advertised occupations in the survey were considered to be not suitable by the advertising employer
    — Just over two thirds of advertised occupations required experience in a similar job, perhaps at a lower level
    — Only 38% of the advertised occupations required formal qualifications.

  • "Employer demand for Qualifications and experience in Christchurch, January 2001" Preliminary report prepared for the Mayoral Taskforce on Poverty by Paul Dalziel, Jane Higgins and Michael Drummond (February 2001)
    Source — "Employer demand for Qualifications and experience in Christchurch, January 2001" Preliminary report prepared for the Mayoral Taskforce on Poverty by Paul Dalziel, Jane Higgins and Michael Drummond (February 2001)

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