The government’s plans to enhance well-being and tackle a number of social challenges in Aotearoa New Zealand are
unachievable without the community / NGO sector being properly supported, ANZASW Chief Executive Lucy Sandford-Reed said
“Non-government social service providers are potential game-changers in communities with the lowest levels of well-being
according to the government’s own metrics,” Sandford-Reed said.
“Yet, like so many of the people they serve, these organisations have been struggling to make ends meet for years. We
know from members and service users that the programmes provided are making a difference, but at the same time they are
falling behind in their ability to meet the demand in their communities because of under-resourcing,” she noted.
“If the government is serious about reducing poor social statistics and promoting well-being this should be the very
next item on their agenda,” she continued.
The severity of the shortfall was highlighted in ‘Social Service System: The Funding Gap and How to Bridge it,’ an
independent report commissioned by the Social Services Providers Aotearoa (SSPA), which was released this week. It shows
that community social services are being under-funded by $633 million and that social service providers are receiving
only two thirds of the costs they require to deliver their programmes.
“At a time when there is a high demand for social services, and data on social indicators of well-being are delivering a
stark message, it is unjustifiable that funding gap for social services in the irreplaceable community-based NGO sector
is well over half a billion dollars,” Sandford-Reed said.
“Among the hardest hit by this under-funding crisis are Māori Providers employing social workers who are working on the
frontlines of the crises that the government says it wants to end,” she added.
“Take the dire statistics on suicide in the Māori community, for example: to meaningfully address the issue,
community-based organisations need to recruit and retain experienced staff and receive sustainable funding, rather than
relying on philanthropic funders to fill the gaps. The only way this can be done is by the government making
commitments,” she observed.
A big part of this is for Government to ensure pay parity for social workers in the NGO sector so that social work
professionals are not drawn away to statutory agencies where the pay can be as much as a third higher,” Sandford-Reed
“To this end, the Public Service Association has filed a pay equity claim for NGO social workers, a move which we fully
support,” she added.
“Social services in this country are already close to being a two-tier system, given the pay and funding divides between
state agencies and community organisations,” she noted.
“It is often claimed that the NGO sector does not work with the same level of complex family and community situations
that Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children, does therefore pay disparity is acceptable. Yet both sectors engage in
similarly challenging work, often supporting both children / tamariki and their caregivers, engaging with the whole
family / whānau as they address multiple, inter-connected issues; in many cases in direct partnership with state
agencies,” Sandford-Reed observed.
“It is often the NGO social worker who is the first to assess whether a person is being neglected or abused and who
takes a range of actions to address this. They consequently are often the first to draw attention to a situation of
vulnerability, who is most likely exposed to the most graphic detail of this, then has to make immediate and complex
decisions to involve other services,” she continued.
“We hope that politicians across the political spectrum heed this report and adopt its recommendations, including fully
funding all essential services provided by NGOs,” she concluded.