WelCom June 2017:
Cardinal John Dew was among a group of church leaders who met with the Prime Minister and government ministers on Wednesday 10 May to deliver a set of proposals asking for more action in the areas of immigration, housing and social investment.
Their views were influenced by the experience of their church congregations and church-based social agencies in most New Zealand communities.
The Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian and Salvation Army leaders, from the churches that form the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services (NZCCSS) network, were calling for government action and partnership on safe and affordable housing, improved investment in whānau/families and increased support for refugees. Their proposals were backed by NZCCSS analysis of evidence from the 213 social service agencies linked to NZCCSS, who work with vulnerable New Zealanders through 1,024 programmes, delivered in 55 locations round the country.
The church leaders told the Prime Minister that an insufficient supply of safe and affordable housing in New Zealand is contributing to a level of poverty that is fracturing the well-being of people and communities and hindering the educational progress of our children.
They said, ‘Ensuring everyone has access to affordable housing is perhaps the most important means to lifting New Zealanders out of poverty and boosting the nation’s collective health and prosperity’.
The leaders thanked the Government for providing increased support for homeless people, but asked for more urgent attention to permanently address people’s long-term housing need.
Because sustainable communities can only occur where there is housing security, the leaders presented a comprehensive strategy on each aspect of the housing continuum, urging ministers to implement a broader strategy of ownership, rental, social and emergency housing solutions.
Input was also sought into the development of the pilot community refugee sponsorship model announced last year. Churches have supported the increased intake of refugees from Syria through actions such as setting up homes and providing other forms of support. They see room for increased partnership to assist and support refugee families living in and being brought to New Zealand. They also want to see greater consideration to resettlement to New Zealand of asylum seekers currently detained in Manus Island and Nauru, and the resettlement of unaccompanied minors.
Government’s social investment approach to social policy was discussed. While supporting the idea of social investment, the church leaders raised questions about the narrowness of this approach.
They felt a more successful approach would identify how to get the right help to the people who needed it, when they needed it, and when they were motivated for change.
Their church leaders’ paper proposed a more coordinated system to support such an approach.
Attending the meeting, alongside Prime Minister Bill English and Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett, were Minister of Social Housing and Minister of Social Investment Amy Adams, and Minister of Immigration Michael Woodhouse, there to engage with the church leaders’ presentations related to their portfolios.
The church leaders included Anglican Archbishop Philip Richardson, Baptist Daniel Palmer, Catholic Cardinal John Dew, Methodist Rev Prince Devanandan, Presbyterian Rev Richard Dawson, and Salvation Army Commissioner Andrew Westrupp. Church social policy advisers also attended the meeting.
The Church Leaders’ statement is online at: tinyurl.com/Church-Leaders-Statement