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.