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Improving outcomes for people on low incomes or in some way receiving support from the welfare system requires a cross-government response – it is not enough to change the welfare system alone.

Currently, being on a benefit or in poverty (or both) often has a detrimental long-term impact on the wellbeing of adults and children. People often come to need welfare support after common life shocks such as relationship breakdowns, major illness, closure of industry and natural disasters. These shocks are often multifaceted, involving a complex interplay of factors (for example, intergenerational trauma, poor mental and/or physical health, addictions, disability, relationship breakdowns, unemployment, justice sector involvement, educational barriers, and insecure and unsuitable housing). These factors cannot be prevented or mitigated by the welfare system alone.

What occurs in other parts of the social sector influences who comes into the welfare system and the outcomes for individuals and families supported by the welfare system. Improving outcomes for those receiving support from the welfare system by implementing evidence-informed investments now can benefit individuals and families and lower costs to government and individuals in the longer term.

A significant group of individuals and families experience multiple and long-term disadvantage and need to interact with several government systems. This group requires a responsive, person-centred, joined up system of support if their outcomes are to improve.

A lack of coordination between government services was a common theme from our consultation. People reported that being engaged with multiple agencies meant having to navigate conflicting demands from different arms of government (for example, Oranga Tamariki–Ministry for Children, the Ministry of Social Development, Inland Revenue, the Department of Corrections, the Ministry of Health and the Accident Compensation Corporation).

People were also frustrated by the need to provide the same information to various agencies, and couldn’t understand why certain actions had to be repeated over and over again.

Several bodies, reviews and other changes are under way or are about to start that could usefully consider how circumstances could be improved for people on low incomes or receiving support from the welfare system including the:

  • Education Funding System Review
  • Future of Work Ministerial Group
  • Fair Pay Agreement Working Group
  • Review of New Zealand Health and Disability System
  • Just Transitions Unit in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
  • Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
  • Tax Working Group
  • Te Uepū Hāpai i te Ora (the Safe and Effective Justice Advisory Group)
  • Reform of Vocational Education.

Our review contributes to a myriad of evidence about the need for fundamental change to effect a whakamana tāngata approach to social security and give people hope for their future.

"Want a single integrated service – enough of silos."
"Combine Citizens Advice Bureau with Work and Income offices, so clients don't have to go looking for JPs across the city/town to verify docs. One stop shop for welfare assistance!"
"How come we need to provide our birth certificate again and again? If we've given it to WINZ why do we have to prove our identity to others like health?"

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