Dom Post on Family Start providers

April 4th, 2012 at 9:03 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Maori Affairs Minister needs to decide whose side he is on. Is it vulnerable children, many of them Maori, or is it the providers of social services, who have failed them?

His advocacy on behalf of five Maori organisations that have had lucrative contracts terminated by the Social Development Ministry suggests it is the latter.

The five – Te Roopu Awhina Family Start in Porirua, Turuki Health Care in Mangere, Papakura Marae, the Waipareira Trust and Te Ha o Te Whanau Trust in Opotiki – have been told they will not be funded to provide intensive home-based support to vulnerable families after June 30.

According to Dr Sharples the providers are the victims of “funding cuts” that will reduce the likelihood of positive change in communities with high and complex needs.

The claim does not withstand scrutiny. The providers have not had their contracts terminated because of a funding cut but because, in the words of the ministry’s head of Family and Community Services, Murray Edridge, they provided “inconsistent and, in some cases, unsafe social work practice to families”.

Good intentions are not enough. I’m mildly surprised to see the Waipareira Trust as one of those defunded as for many years it was held up as a model for integrated services.

Terminating the contracts of the five providers will not reduce the likelihood of positive change. It will increase it if the funding is picked up by any of the other 27 Family Start providers, who are delivering useful assistance to the 15 per cent of the population at greatest risk.


Dr Sharples has also accused the ministry of failing to communicate properly with the affected organisations. “For Maori organisations, it’s about kanohi ki te kanohi (talking face to face),” he told National Radio yesterday. That claim also appears to be of questionable merit. According to Mr Edridge and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, the ministry has bent over backwards to try to help the affected providers to come up to standard. Ms Bennett told Parliament yesterday that the Waipareira Trust alone had received 14 visits from the ministry since July last year. Mr Edridge says the failed providers could not have been in any doubt about the ministry’s concerns. All had received regular feedback that they were not meeting the standards required.

If anything, maybe the fair criticism isn’t the decision to defund, but that it has taken so long!

Rather than berating the ministry for being too tough on Maori organisations, he should be thanking it for looking out for those his party has pledged to represent – the most vulnerable members of society.

By doing so the ministry has acted not only to protect children but the reputation of the Whanau Ora scheme established at the behest of the Maori Party to promote Maori solutions to Maori problems.

Nothing will undermine public support for the scheme faster than evidence that money is being wasted or that ministers are turning a blind eye to non-performance.

Exactly. There will be providers from time to time who do not meet the standard required or are wasteful. The Government’s job is to act on those issues, not ignore them.

9 Responses to “Dom Post on Family Start providers”

  1. tvb (5,509 comments) says:

    What is the point of the Maori party in government. They need to be supporting the government more on the hard stuff. Being in government is not about cherry picking on the easy stuff, riding around in BMW and going on overseas trips. Sharples and co want their cake and eat it too.

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  2. adamsmith1922 (1,002 comments) says:

    I Heard Sharples on Radio NZ yesterday re this. He seems as always to be claiming special privileges for Maori providers. Yet if I understand it correctly 22 of 27 are performing, the cuts are not to the Whanau Ora budegt but to non-peforming providers. Sharples seems to be defending non-performance by providers, rather than looking at programme performance.

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  3. trout (1,132 comments) says:

    Sharples’ constituents have been on his back because the flow of cash from the state tit (for non performance) is being cut off. So Sharples claims some kind of cultural discrimination. It is all so predictable.

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  4. adze (2,133 comments) says:

    Sharples’ interview on NatRad was not terribly good. His main objection seemed to be that only face to face communication was considered worth paying attention to within Maori organizations; because letters had been ignored by the defunded providers. That sounds like a cop out to me.

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  5. Letterman (183 comments) says:

    It is also pretty clear from the Outcome Research as to what Family Intervention services actually work in NZ, and the Family Start Programme isn’t one of them. Remarkably for the former head of Barnardos, Edridge is finally going where the evidence leads, a practice he was fundamentally and ideologically opposed to in his former role:

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  6. Longknives (6,394 comments) says:

    You’re all ignorant racists!!

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  7. holysheet (1,608 comments) says:

    Doesn’t surprise me that waiparera trust has lost it’s funding. When the cats away the mice will play. Tamahere spends to much time on the radio and other things boosting his profile to be able to manage the shonkeys at the trust.

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  8. KH (707 comments) says:

    Go the Dom Post.
    I too heard Peter Sharples on the radio and he had completely lost the plot.
    It’s the kids who are important Peter, not your collection of unemployables who suck on the tit of these well funded agencies.
    Despite all the money they get, they don’t seem to understand they need to do the job.

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  9. mikenmild (23,509 comments) says:

    John Tamihere is talking about this on Radio Live at the moment. His take is that Waipareira Trust accepted they had some difficulties with this programme (one of many they run) but had made changes and don’t think they should have been cut. Has a difficult relationship with the manager responsible, so he says.

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