Auditor-General on Whanau Ora

May 6th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Auditor-General reports:

I chose to report on Whānau Ora because it is an example of innovation and new thinking in service delivery. Whānau Ora was an opportunity for providers of health and social services in the community to operate differently and to support families in deciding their best way forward.

Whānau Ora has been a success for many families who now have a plan to improve their lives. For example, some whānau are working towards getting their young people living and working on their ancestral land. The government spending to achieve this has been small, but the importance for the whānau is significant.

Bringing whānau members together to prepare plans seems to have had benefits that are wider than the plans themselves. For example, reconnected whānau members not only provide each other with support but have also learned where skills and expertise already lie within the whānau. Some whānau have also gained shared experience in goal setting, planning, and managing projects and budgets to achieve their goals.

We wanted to clarify for Parliament and the public what Whānau Ora is, where the funding has gone, and what Whānau Ora has achieved after four years. It was not easy to describe what it is or what it has achieved.

We could not get a consistent explanation of the aims of the initiatives in Whānau Ora from the joint agencies or other people that we spoke to. So far, the situation has been unclear and confusing to many of the public entities and whānau.

So it has been beneficial for many families, but there is no clarity on what the aims are, and how one would define success.

During the first four years, total spending on Whānau Ora was $137.6 million. Delays in spending meant that some of the funds originally intended for whānau and providers did not reach them. Nearly a third of the total spending was on administration (including research and evaluation). In my view, Te Puni Kōkiri could have spent a greater proportion of funds on those people – whānau and providers – who Whānau Ora was meant to help.

A third on admin is far too high. Around 10% should be the aim.

I have no doubt that some commentators will make light of the successes described in this report and make much of the criticisms. However, an innovative idea should not be abandoned just because of implementation problems. I earnestly hope that those involved with the next phase of Whānau Ora are able to take my criticisms on board and learn from them.

Whanau Ora shouldn’t be scrapped necessarily, but it needs to be significantly improved with greater clarity of aims, and greatly reduced administration costs.

Pouring a third of the money intended for families into bureaucracy benefits no-one, but the bureaucracy.

Nice job – getting paid to hand out money!

March 31st, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Former radio show partners Willie Jackson and John Tamihere were knocked back in a bid to handle distribution of $14 million of taxpayer funding for health and social services because they wanted too much money in overheads.

The pair put the total cost of distributing the Whanau Ora funding in the North Island at $21 million.

They wanted $21 million to hand out money? I’ll do it for half of that!

The document said the proposal was based on getting $21 million.

Of this, $1.7 million was to be spent on staff, $3.3 million on operating costs and more on governance.

Not quite it seems. They said it would cost $5 million to distribute the remaining $15 million or so. That sounds grossly inefficient.

TPK said the contract bid should be reduced from the $5 million in costs sought to $2.3 million at most.

It asked the authority to reduce its estimated $2 million cost to set up the distribution scheme.

I’d say the cost of distribution should be around 5% of the amount being distributed – at most!


Winston may be right on this one

May 30th, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has mounted a further attack on the Whanau Ora programme, describing it as a ‘bro-ocracy’ and questioning a $60,000 grant to a rugby club.

Mr Peters said the $60,000 grant was to the Rahui Rugby and Sports Club, based in Otaki “to research the vaguely-termed ‘whanau connectedness’ and ‘resilience’ in the community.”

He said it was ridiculous the Government considered a small rural sports club an appropriate body to undertake economic and social research.

On the face of it, I have to agree with Peters. There may be factors we do not know about, but on the surface it looks quite inappropriate.

I do support the Whanua Ora programme. Empowering communities to help improve social outcomes is a good thing. But those administering the grants need to apply a high level of scrutiny to ensure any grants are going to bodies that realistically can make a difference.

He said Whanau Ora’s Whanau Innovation, Integration and Engagement Fund should be dismantled and the funding passed onto experienced Maori providers.

Again, I might partially agree. Not to dismantle the fund, but to favour those with experience and a proven track record at delivering.

Winston on Whanau Ora

February 8th, 2012 at 8:29 am by David Farrar

John Hartevelt at Stuff reports:

Millions of taxpayer dollars have been handed out to organise family reunions, it has been alleged.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said this afternoon that about $6 million of tax-payer cash had been “squandered” on a Whanau Ora programme that funded “family reunions”.

“Whanau Ora is a waste of tax-payer’s money. It’s going to be a disaster for Maoridom. It’s a pet idea of the Maori Party and John Key is selling out on separatist policies,” Peters said.

He said an official Whanau Ora report showed more than 200 applications for the scheme – known as “Whanau Integration, Innovation and Engagement funding” – had been accepted.

The report says the fund is “available to support whanau, who, among other things, want to strengthen whanau ties”.

Peter’s hyperbole is as usual nearing hysterical and overblown. But underneath the hyperbole, he may have a valid issue.

I have no problem with the concept of Whanua Ora, and think it has the potential to improve outcomes for disadvantaged families.

But as with all Government spending, I would not be at all surprised if some of the programmes funded are of marginal benefit or value, and should be scrapped.  And having Winston put the blowtorch on them is not necessarily a bad thing.

It would be unwise to jump to conclusions on the basis of allegations from Winston alone, otherwise we’d still be looking for the Cook Strait ferry that scraped the bottom, or the mystery fleet of WINZ BMWs. But I suspect in this case that some of the activities funded by the Whanau Integration, Innovation and Engagement fund are deserving of further scrutiny.

Worth noting this Dom Post article gives more details of the case cited:

However, Mrs Turia said the Rutene whanau plan included advancing education, employment, health, and cultural identity outcomes.

“The mechanism for this process of transformation was six hui,” Mrs Turia said. “I don’t know of any whanau that would have six ‘family reunions’ in one year. That is just ridiculous.”

Government spending on Whanau Ora would be more effective at empowering families to take control of their situations, and lead to savings when ongoing state support was no longer needed, she said.

“Families working together to improve their health, education and abilities to contribute to their communities are also role modelling for future generations.”

As I said, the aims are good. Whether the desired outcomes eventuate may be another matter.

McCarten on Whanua Ora

April 11th, 2010 at 10:15 am by David Farrar

Matt McCarten in the HoS:

The arguments for Whanau Ora are compelling. A one-stop shop to help struggling families from an array of social services is hard to argue against.

Having a family advocate to liaise between all the players is a creative idea.

The Act Party came up with a similar idea several years ago but it was widely attacked by those of us on the left as a Trojan horse for privatisation. Which it was.

Turia’s version is softer and gentler, but the intention to contract out the management of social services to private providers will ring alarm bells for the left.

The right knows that once the precedent is set, it could be extended to education, justice and other services that private contractors can make a good living from.

Although it’s a Maori programme for Maori families, potentially it will be a help to every family, whatever their ethnicity.

It is difficult for Labour to argue against a Maori initiative given that, after 75 years of a welfare state, Maori still rank at the bottom of nearly every single social statistic. Whoever’s fault it is, something new must be tried.

That last paragraph is a strong one.

Never thought one would see McCarten argue for greater private sector involvement!