Annual report 2016 cover

Supporting strong, inclusive communities

Different sectors of the population face different challenges to participating fully in their communities and society. The Ministry provides support, through StudyLink, the Ministry of Youth Development, the Office for Seniors and the Office for Disability Issues, to enable students, young adults, seniors and disabled people respectively to be part of their community. In this section we outline our work in support of these groups.

Assisting students to overcome barriers to higher education

As education leads to more people contributing to their communities and society, it is important that eligible students receive support to overcome financial barriers to accessing higher education. We provide this support through StudyLink (student allowances and loans) and the Student Job Search service.

StudyLink helps young people who are leaving school, on a benefit or working, and thinking about tertiary study to make informed decisions about their options.

StudyLink funds the Student Job Search service to help tertiary students find employment while studying and during study breaks. In 2015/2016 students were placed in nearly 28,000 jobs (2.5 percent above target), generating minimum potential earnings of more than $80 million (23.6 percent above target). This income helps students to reduce their reliance on other forms of financial assistance.

Supporting young New Zealanders to contribute to communities

The Ministry of Youth Development (MYD) encourages and supports young people aged between 12 and 24 years to develop and use knowledge, skills and experiences to participate confidently in their communities.

In November 2015 Cabinet agreed a new direction and priorities for MYD. The focus of the new direction is to:

  • provide more opportunities for youth development
  • increase funding to youth from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • pursue partnerships with the business and philanthropic sectors to invest in youth development outcomes
  • encourage recognition of the contributions of young people to their communities.

We have taken a number of initiatives to align our operations with the new direction. We have implemented a new organisational structure and new, more flexible funding arrangements.

We also established a new partnership fund to increase youth development opportunities through engagement and partnership with businesses and philanthropic organisations. The first tranche of partnerships has created over 2,000 new youth development opportunities and has generated almost $1 million in co-investment.

We are reviewing funding contracts worth $4.3 million to ensure our purchase of youth development services aligns with the new direction.

Youth Parliament 2016

During the year we were integral in preparing for the July 2016 Youth Parliament. This included working with other agencies on material to support the mock Select Committee hearings, Question Time and a mock Bill. This work helped to make the Youth Parliament a valuable and exciting learning experience for the 121 participating Youth MPs as well as Youth Press Gallery members and other participants.

Support for teen parents and preventing unintended teen pregnancies

Teen parents have the highest lifetime liability costs of all groups in the benefit system, and their children are more likely to experience poor outcomes. It is particularly important to reducing vulnerability and supporting our communities for these parents and their children to thrive, achieve and belong.

We supported this outcome by leading the cross-agency teen parents work programme, which focuses on supporting better access to services for the most vulnerable teen parents and their children.

We also looked at the opportunities that social investment presents for these groups.

Helping seniors maintain independence and participate in society

The Office for Seniors encourages New Zealanders of all ages to think about the ageing population, and it helps update government and communities on the needs of seniors.

At 30 June 2016 there were:

  • 704,607 recipients of New Zealand Superannuation
  • 9,014 recipients of Veterans’ Pensions
  • 290,995 Community Services Card holders over 65 years of age
  • 688,810 SuperGold Card holders.

Older people are key contributors to our economy and our communities. We provide services to support the wellbeing of seniors and to encourage their participation in their communities. For example we administered nine contracts covering 27 specialist elder abuse and neglect prevention services throughout New Zealand, to the tune of $1.93 million. These services helped prevent or reduce the incidence of abuse or neglect by providing education for aged care workers and public awareness-raising activities to inform the community about:

  • the existence and prevalence of elder abuse
  • how to identify elder abuse
  • how to respond when it is suspected.

Services are provided by appropriately trained and qualified staff.

This work contributes to the following Ministry outcomes:

  • More people are able to participate in and contribute positively to their communities and society
  • Fewer children and people are vulnerable
  • More communities are strong and thriving

Providing financial assistance to students

During 2015/2016 we processed:

  • 127,099 Student Allowance applications (2014/2015: 132,293)
  • 228,594 Student Loan applications (2014/2015: 230,465)
  • 206,317 Student Loan course-related costs applications (2014/2015: 199,662)
  • 22,265 Jobseeker Support Student Hardship applications (2014/2015: 25,281).

Providing information and connection points for seniors

During the past year we increased our communications with seniors to ensure they are better informed and have the opportunity to connect with services and their communities. Key initiatives included launching the SuperSeniors website, to keep seniors up to date with news and events and issues that directly impact them. The site has had over 450,000 page views.

The SuperSeniors e-newsletter has been expanded to include useful articles for seniors, as well as details of discounts available to SuperGold Card holders.

The number of followers of the Office for Seniors’ Facebook page, which was launched in 2014, doubled last year to almost 7,500. Of these, 85 percent are aged 55 years and over, showing an active following from seniors.

Supporting disabled New Zealanders to participate in society

The Office for Disability Issues exists to help disabled people live successful lives, to help them take their place in a society where their contribution is valued and they are included.

Employment of disabled people

One in four New Zealanders is limited by a physical, sensory, learning, mental health or other impairment.

We developed several initiatives to support agencies to employ and retain disabled people. These included:

  • for the public sector, the comprehensive Lead Toolkit, which is available on the State Services Commission’s website
  • for the private sector, the Hidden Talent tour, which showcases the skills and talents of disabled people and encourages business owners to employ them.

Providing financial support for disabled people

A key part of our support for disabled people to participate fully in society is payment of Disability Allowance to assist with regular ongoing costs associated with their disability, such as visits to the doctor or hospital, medicines, extra clothing or travel. At 30 June 2016, 236,603 people were receiving a Disability Allowance, an increase of 3,818 or 1.6 percent from the previous year.

Disability Data and Evidence Working Group

The Office for Disability Issues and Statistics NZ jointly lead the Disability Data and Evidence Working Group, which was established in 2015 to help improve data collection and statistics on disabled people in New Zealand.

The Working Group is addressing this challenge by developing a data and evidence plan to identify the information needed to make good decisions for disabled people and how to address any information gaps. It completed a stocktake of relevant government data, and is now developing a disability domain plan to set out clearly the priorities for the collection of data on disabled people.

New Zealand Sign Language

The Office for Disability Issues supports the New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) Board to promote and maintain the use of NZSL. The Office also administers the NZSL Act 2006 and the NZSL Fund, which supports initiatives to promote NZSL in the community.

In March 2016 the NZSL Board’s action plan was released, setting out five priorities for action. In addition, 24 projects were supported by the second funding round from the NZSL Fund. Successful projects include the development of a youth mentorship programme, a series of NZSL Immersion Courses in Otago where there is very limited access to NZSL for families with deaf children, and a national conference for families with deaf children.

Spotlight on:

Enabling Good Lives

The Christchurch Enabling Good Lives (EGL) demonstration concluded at the end of June 2016. Its 250 participants now have greater choice and control in their lives and over their supports.

The Waikato-based EGL demonstration has completed its first year, and at 30 June 2016 had 127 participants. We have worked with iwi in the planning and delivery of the demonstration, which is aligned with Māori tikanga and values. Thirty-two percent of Waikato EGL participants are Māori.

Evaluations of the two demonstrations indicate that EGL can make a positive difference to the lives of disabled people and their families. The detailed data and lessons from the two EGL demonstrations will inform future advice about the disability support system.