WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Progress stalled in reducing inequality

WelCom March 2019:

Alan Johnson, Salvation Army Policy Analyst.

On 13 February The Salvation Army launched its 2019 State of the Nation report, written by policy analyst Alan Johnson. This year’s report has picked up on the theme of wellbeing and is titled Are you well? Are we safe?

The 82-page report criticises the ‘wellbeing’-focused Government for not doing enough to lead vulnerable New Zealanders out of poverty. It shows a lack of tangible progress in key areas including record levels of household debt and a growing gap in educational achievement between poorer and more well-off communities.

‘I wrote this report for the Army as I have for the past 11 years,’ Mr Johnson says. ‘The report takes a wellbeing approach to social progress as a nation. It looks at the differences between those of us who are doing okay and the most vulnerable New Zealanders.

‘This focus on wellbeing is a response to the Prime Minister’s announcement in early 2018 that the 2019 Budget will be our first wellbeing budget. Since then Government agencies have been busy developing living standards frameworks, wellbeing indicators and child wellbeing strategies. These are all very worthy but risk quickly losing the public in a mire of complexity and detail. If this happens then quite possibly “wellbeing” will be lost as an organising idea for public policy because the Government has failed to ignite the public imagination that such a broader focus is feasible.

‘The Salvation Army’s offering through its 2019 State of the Nation report is an attempt to popularise this wellbeing narrative.’

‘The Government’s promise of a wellbeing budget in 2019 is overdue, but in taking this approach it is important that we do not gloss over the large and persistent inequalities which exist across our society,’ Mr Johnson says.

This year’s report has incorporated analysis that shows significant persistent gaps between Māori and non-Māori across a wide range of wellbeing indicators. For the first time the report offers a gaps table as an appendix backed up with a spreadsheet, which provides the detailed data behind these indicators.

‘The wellbeing of Māori needs the attention of us all and it appears to us that these gaps will not be fully addressed if we continue to rely on generic policy responses to symptoms of poverty,’ Mr Johnson says.

‘We cannot blame Government for everything that has or hasn’t happened in terms of social progress. However, as yet there are few signs government policies are beginning to address seemingly entrenched aspects of poverty in New Zealand.’

The Government has set the stage for quite radical reform with such initiatives as the Tomorrows Schools Taskforce, the Welfare Expert Advisory Group, and te Uepu or the Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group.

‘I am hopeful the Government will stay the course and pursue radical or at least far reaching reforms which address inequality – especially Māori inequality.

‘There is a great deal of work to be done between now and the 2020 election in framing the political discourse around the need for radical change. We to need highlight the consequences of our history and the facts of our unequal society. I hope the Māori-non-Māori gaps table is a worthwhile contribution to this work.’

Source: Issued on the Authority of Commissioner Andrew Westrupp (Territorial Commander) The Salvation Army, New Zealand Fiji, Tonga and Samoa Territory.

www.salvationarmy.org.nz/article/are-you-well-are-we-safe