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Executive summary

This briefing introduces you to the Ministry of Social Development and its relevant portfolios, including the current context, challenges and opportunities for improving outcomes for New Zealanders. This briefing is the start of the Ministry’s ongoing advice to you during your term.

Within the social development portfolio, we understand that the Government’s priorities will include building off recent reforms to further reduce the number of people receiving welfare support and drive the performance of the social housing system. Opportunities are emerging from these changes to achieve better outcomes for people as we improve our understanding of what works. We look forward to working with you to develop a comprehensive programme of work that meets your priorities.

The social development portfolio addresses some of the most complex issues facing New Zealand. These issues cannot be addressed in isolation. Cross-agency and community partnerships, coupled with more effective use of data to target interventions to the right people, at the right time, to maximise their effectiveness, are crucial to improving outcomes.

For the Ministry, meeting these expectations requires a new single integrated operating model providing a whole of Ministry view across our functions and services. This model will support the development of better integrated service delivery and address increasing financial pressures on the Ministry’s baseline. It will allow the Ministry to make resourcing decisions and trade-offs to ensure spending is directed toward high-priority, effective services.

Fundamental changes are being made to the way government coordinates and provides support for vulnerable children and young people. These include significant reforms across the entire child protection system, a focus on shared responsibilities across agencies, the Children’s Action Plan and the development of regional Children’s Teams. This shift is providing the opportunity for Child, Youth and Family to modernise and to refocus on its core role – the care and protection of children who have suffered abuse or neglect and those children at greatest risk of such harm.

A cross-agency focus on agreed results has seen good progress in reducing long-term benefit reliance, and improving education outcomes and some health indicators. While these areas continue to be a high priority, there may be opportunities to address emerging social issues as resources become available. This might include addressing the implications of New Zealand’s ageing population, and investigating options to improve routes out of hardship and counteract the effects of poverty through early investment.

The recent tragedy at the Ashburton Work and Income office has highlighted the potential risks and dangers faced by the Ministry’s staff at the frontline. The Ministry has implemented new security processes across all sites and an independent review is underway that will recommend changes to our security environment. It is highly likely that the review will lead to changes in the way we engage with the people we work with and a lower tolerance of poor behaviour towards staff.