Families advocate targeted

Sunday Star Times 12/12/2010
The Families Commission has been told to slash the number of commissioners, consider closing its Auckland office, cut overheads and focus on a limited number of research projects. Critics say the moves will undermine its role as an advocate for families, and its independence. Labour MP and former chief families commissioner Rajen Prasad said the changes would see the commission focus on research to back up government policy, rather than advocate for families in a way that could challenge the impact of policies, such as the upcoming welfare review. “It is dangerous, inappropriate, and an abuse of independent commissions,” he said. Prasad pointed to the influence of conservative commissioners Bruce Pilbrow and Christine Rankin. “It’s an attempt by those pro-traditional family type people to limit the influence of this commission. It’s ironic that those who have been critical of the commission then denude it of all its appeal, all its strength.” A Social Welfare Ministry report, leaked to the Sunday Star-Times, recommends dumping four commissioners to the minimum of three set by law, and cutting their hours.