Sallies slam Govt policies

The Press 12 February 2008
The Government is spending billions of dollars more on social policies to little or no effect, a damning new report says. The Salvation Army has slammed the Government’s performance on a range of social service indicators, just as Prime Minister Helen Clark prepares to unveil Labour’s programme at the opening of Parliament today. In its first state-of-the-nation report, the Salvation Army found that despite increasing core social spending by $16 billion to $39b a year over the past 10 years, there had been little increase in social progress. “In fact the gap between the rich and poor appears to be widening.”

The report — What does it profit us? — found fault with a host of areas of Government policy in areas Labour prides itself on achievements. More children were in the care of Child, Youth and Family, and the incidence of child neglect and abuse was rising. Youth offending was on the increase, along with teen pregnancy, abortion, and accident rates. There was continuing educational inequality, rising serious and violent crime, and a burgeoning prison population. Kiwis were drinking more, and gambling more, losing $2 billion a year — an average of $656 per person, the Salvation Army said. Against this, wage growth remained “very modest”, 250,000 people remained on welfare benefits, household debt was up and houses were fast becoming unaffordable.

The Salvation Army’s social policy and parliamentary unit director, Major Campbell Roberts, said the Government was placing too much emphasis on economics and not enough on the way people were living their lives. “More children appear to be at risk of harm, more are engaged in petty crime, there is more violent crime and more people in jails,” Roberts said. “While more New Zealanders are working than ever before and many have benefited from the recent housing market boom, incomes have risen only modestly, we are chronically indebted, and home ownership rates have dropped. If we are to make real social progress then we need as a country to reflect on the relative priority we give to economic issues versus social concerns.

MAIN FINDINGS CYF referrals up 24% since 2005. Youth Court cases up 28% since 2001. 8300 women aged 15-19 pregnant compared to 7000 in 2001. Serious crime up 28% since 2002. Prison population up 36% since 2002. Prison running costs up from $431m to $862m. Wage growth 5.1% since 2002.