Labour against using data to identify at risk children!

The Herald reports:

The Treasury has carried out the analysis of anonymised information after being given access to a detailed dataset compiled by the Ministry of Social Development.

The work is part of the Government’s “investment approach” to social spending, which aims to identify where up-front spending can cut costs later.

Treasury’s preliminary analysis shows that children with specific risk factors could have cost taxpayers an average extra $256,000 by the time they hit 36.

Finance Minister Bill English said it aimed to identify which families were the most vulnerable, what help they received and whether that made enough difference.

“It is a bit more intense than we thought – that cycle of dependency is tighter, it is a smaller group of people I think in a longer term, which highlights for instance that a lot of these families will need sustained, intelligent support.

“We are making a lot of progress with this compared to five or six years ago – flying pretty much blind to now getting much more of a picture of what really happens. It shows that some of these kids are likely to be getting multiple services, these families, some might not be getting much at all.”

This work is potentially very important. Identifying at risk families before things go dramatically wrong could make a real difference.

The work has frustrated Labour, who say the exercise crudely simplifies what are complex, real-life situations.

“The social workers who are in this space already know how to identify the families that need help,” Labour’s spokeswoman for children Jacinda Ardern said. “Our problem is that we are not properly resourced to deal with it.”

This makes me despair. First of all social workers can only identify families they are already dealing with. But secondly to put reject using science and data to identify families more likely to be at risk is just dumb. Labour’s answer to almost everything is to reject change, and just demand more money.

The Treasury research comes as a Productivity Commission report, released yesterday, found the 10,000 “highest-cost clients of the social services system” each cost at least $500,000 in lifetime services.

Ouch. That is a total of $5 billion on 0.2% of the population.

More cost-benefit analysis to allocate funding has worried unions, including the Public Service Association, which has said the “lottery” of contestable funding causes too much uncertainty.

I care more about outcomes.

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