Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Good social policy essential during recession – Maharey
New Zealand risks piling up costly social problems if it does not pay equal attention to social policy
during the current economic recession, says Massey University Vice-Chancellor Seve Maharey.
Speaking at a seminar on public services at Massey’s Wellington campus today, Mr Maharey said economic problems can quickly become social problems costing billions if we assume that the problem can only be addressed through financial and business-focused policies.
"Good social policy delivered in innovative ways will make a real difference over the next few months and years."
Mr Maharey said a robust social development agenda was even more necessary in the current climate of recession. “In the midst of economic recession we still need to be building the capacity and capability of all New Zealanders as part of the country’s strategy to deal positively with what is happening.
“Investing heavily in educational infrastructure, for example, will keep people in jobs and improve our education system.
“Keeping people in jobs is probably the best social policy available. But it is unlikely that the public and private sectors can supply everything that is needed – especially for no and low-skilled workers. Innovative ways of providing productive work will need to be found.
“Public services need to be delivered in highly innovative ways to ensure we do not allow social problems to blossom. If unemployment is high it is likely young people will be attracted into gangs. This can’t be allowed to happen.
“Local communities need to be given support to ensure they can respond to social needs as they arise in positive ways.
Mr Maharey said that the best way forward was to give front-line workers in social agencies the flexibility to find innovative ways to deal with social policy issues.
“Whether it is front-line workers in health, Work and Income, teachers, community agencies, Housing New Zealand, ACC, Child Youth and Family – they all need a clear understanding that they are being asked to make a difference."