Through a series of extraordinary statements in Parliament yesterday, the Minister of Social Development has dismissed the idea of setting targets to reduce poverty and welfare dependence – the exact sort of targets that are key to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s ambitions to reduce child poverty.
National Spokesperson for Social Development Louise Upston says Ms Sepuloni’s comments that she wouldn’t be setting targets around poverty reduction and welfare dependence are completely at odds with the Prime Minister’s plan to set them into legislation.
“This is another complete U-turn from the coalition Government. While these sorts of ideological differences might be expected between Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens, it beggars belief to have a Labour Minister outright reject her own Prime Minister’s ideas.
“As acknowledged by the Children’s Commissioner just this week, the growth of the rate of child poverty has halted, and the number on sole parents on benefits is the lowest since 1989.
“We know this because the National Government set targets, and we measured our achievements against those targets.
“We know there is a direct connection between children growing up in benefit dependent homes and experiencing hardship.
“The new Government needs to front up and clarify whether it will set targets to further reduce benefit numbers.
“The National Government had a real focus on the things that we knew would make a difference to the quality of people’s lives. We worked hard to build a robust economy that would improve incomes, we set a Better Public Services target to reduce the number of people on benefits, and we used a Social Investment approach to focus on identifying and reducing hardship.
“As the Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni’s responsibility includes ‘alleviating poverty and hardship, and reducing long term benefit receipt’.
“I’m calling on the new Government to step up to those responsibilities and be transparent on its plans to improve the lives of children,” Ms Upston says.
An extraordinary lack of commitment from the new Minister for Children indicates the lack of clarity this new Government has around the protection of some of our most vulnerable, National’s Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston says.
“This week I questioned Tracy Martin about her views on Articles 7 and 8 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNROC) which confirm a child’s ability to know and be connected to their parents.
“Ms Martin responded that it is generally accepted that every child has the right to know their whakapapa.”
“I also asked whether New Zealand First will, therefore, support Labour’s plans to roll back sanctions in the social welfare system. The public deserves to know whether New Zealand First supports repealing the obligation for women applying for a sole parent benefit to name the fathers of their children.
“Ms Martin obfuscated and did not answer the question.
“This is yet more confusion from the Coalition. On one hand, Labour says mothers seeking a benefit shouldn’t have to name the father and, on the other hand, New Zealand First has confirmed it supports the UNROC to know who their father is,” Ms Upston says.
“I think the public deserves to know whether New Zealand First believes that parents should be financially responsible for their own children.
National believes Labour’s proposal to remove this obligation is a major step backwards.
“There are adequate protections in place for Mums on benefits who, for their own safety or the safety of their children, don’t wish to - or are unable to - name the father. Outside of those exemptions, hardworking Kiwis can rightly expect parents to meet their obligations and support their children without others having to pick up the tab.”
Suitable, low-risk prisoners will be eligible for earlier release if they successfully complete training and treatment plans and have a low risk of reoffending, National Party Corrections spokesperson Louise Upston says
“Rehabilitation programmes work, so we want more prisoners to complete them. They help prisoners prepare for life outside prison, give them skills to get a job, and help stop reoffending,” Ms Upston says.
“National will introduce the Positive Pathways programme to incentivise more prisoners to complete personalised rehabilitation and training programmes, improving their chances of remaining crime-free when they are released to further reduce crime and improve public safety.
“We will also invest an extra $48 million in rehabilitation and reintegration programmes over the next four years to deliver another 6000 places. That’s on top of National’s major investment in rehabilitation, which has seen the number of offenders in training or treatment programmes almost triple since 2008.
“We know these programmes work. Since 2011, we’ve reduced the number of people reoffending by 26 per cent – that’s 38,000 fewer victims of crime.”
Under Positive Pathways, prisoners whose sentences are two years or less and who successfully complete their training and treatment plan will be eligible for release 10 per cent earlier than under current settings.
Prisoners serving more than two years will get an individualised training and treatment plan from Corrections and will receive early feedback from the Parole Board on this plan to better prepare them for when they become eligible for parole. Successful completion of that programme will trigger an earlier parole hearing – early release is not guaranteed and minimum non-parole periods will remain unchanged.
Only prisoners with a low risk of reoffending will be eligible for an earlier release, and Judges will also have the discretion to exclude offenders at sentencing.
“We are not making sentences shorter. Instead prisoners can serve a greater portion of their sentence in the community, subject to appropriate monitoring. They will be subject to immediate recall to prison if they breach their conditions or reoffend,” Ms Upston says
“The requirements for early release will be set by Corrections in training and treatment plans that are tailored to each individual prisoner. In addition to industry, treatment and learning programmes, community and family-focused programmes can also be included in an individual prisoner’s plan.
“Part of the new investment in rehabilitation will also be targeted at more support for prisoners when they leave jail to stop them from returning.
“Public safety will always remain National’s bottom line – but in many cases public safety is enhanced by undertaking rehabilitation and reintegration programmes, and controlled release into the community,” Ms Upston says.
Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy and Associate Minister for Primary Industries Louise Upston have welcomed the beginning of construction on a new centre to showcase the best of the primary sector in the heart of Auckland.
Mount Albert Grammar School’s farm, established in 1932, will be transformed into a centre of primary sector excellence showing urban Kiwis the best technology, innovation, practices and research in New Zealand and the world.
“The AgriFood Experience Centre will highlight the wide range of careers in the primary sector and create new connections in our biggest city,” says Mr Guy.
“The primary industries play an incredibly important role in our economy. This centre will play a big part in telling this story to younger, urban audiences.”
Ms Upston says the centre will give students a taste of careers in agrifood with a hands-on learning approach.
“The centre will help raise awareness of the wide range of different and exciting careers in the primary sector, and encourage students to consider a career in this crucial industry.”
Corrections Minister Louise Upston has welcomed nearly 60 new Corrections officers from a range of backgrounds to the frontline today.
The latest cohort, which graduated at a ceremony in Wellington, includes officers from India, South Africa, Britain, Canada and Niue.
They come from a range of backgrounds and professions including a mechanical engineer, software engineer, data analyst, farmer, nurse and a vet.
Some have also changed careers from within the wider government workforce including police officers, immigration officers and Defence Force staff.
“I am proud that Corrections is attracting such a talented and diverse workforce. These officers should be applauded for choosing a career that will be challenging, as well as rewarding,” Ms Upston says.
“Being on the frontline at Corrections means working face-to-face with offenders every day. It is crucial that the staff are able to engage positively and motivate offenders to change their lives.”
Paul Mohi of Northland Region Corrections Facility was presented with the Minister’s Excellence Award for the all-round excellence he displayed during training.
Mr Mohi, who was born in New Plymouth, served in the Royal NZ Navy, trained as a carpenter and has been a foreman for Fulton Hogan.
“Mr Mohi’s experiences and skills will serve him well as a Corrections officer. During his training, he stood out as an enthusiastic and patient professional who is keen to be a role model for Maori youth,” Ms Upston says.
Corrections Minister Louise Upston has today launched a new approach to managing women offenders which aims to successfully support them towards a crime-free life.
“The number of women in prison and being managed by Corrections in the community has increased over the last decade or so,” says Ms Upston.
“We need a fresh approach to helping women offenders stop reoffending while holding them to account for their crimes.”
Corrections manages around 750 women in prison and 6000 in the community.
In general, women commit less serious crime and pose a lower risk to the community than men. Research shows that women offenders tend to have complex histories of severe trauma, mental health issues, substance abuse, unhealthy relationships and poverty which have contributed to their offending.
“The new women’s strategy is based on Corrections’ research into what works best and international best practice.
“It acknowledges that women have different needs to men and outlines a new approach that will give women the treatment, support, counselling and skills they need to have a positive impact on themselves, their children, family and whānau, and future generations,” Ms Upston says.
Some of the initiatives for women include developing a new programme for the small group of high-risk women in prison; employing social workers and counsellors in the three women’s prisons to help improve the well-being of prisoners and work with those who have suffered trauma; and contracting to provide supported accommodation for women on electronically monitored bail.
The new approach will provide women offenders with the interventions and services that meet their needs and risks. Women will be managed in ways that acknowledge trauma and empower them to develop confidence in their ability to build a positive life. Women will be encouraged to develop healthy relationships with their children, partners and others.
“While we acknowledge that these woman are being managed by Corrections because they have committed crimes, most will be returning to their homes in the future, or already live in the community. If they can be helped to turn their life around, it benefits not just them and their family but helps make the community a safer place,” Ms Upston says.
The full strategy document is available here: http://www.corrections.govt.nz/news/latest_news/e_rere_ana_ki_te_pae_hou.html
Associate Minister of Education Louise Upston has announced a new pilot for supporting disengaged young people which will help them to stay in education longer and achieve better outcomes in life.
“The rollout of the new model for delivering learning support will provide more accessible and flexible support to young people to help them realise their full potential. We will be piloting new local responses to better meet the needs of young people at risk of not achieving in education,” Ms Upston says.
Young people aged between 13 and 16 who are alienated from mainstream schooling often end up enrolled in alternative education or activity centres.
The Ministry of Education funds schools to provide 1888 places in alternative education and 280 activity centre places across the country each year. The pilot will be carried out at five Communities of Learning to help test the model that will be made available to all schools.
Ms Upston stressed that alternative education contracts are in place until December 2018 while the pilot is underway and all young people currently in alternative education and activity centres would continue to be supported.
“Communities of Learning are ideal to test the new approaches because they have a wide variety of schooling types and some involve early learning services as well. This means we can further test the new approaches in a wider variety of settings. The presence of early learning services in many communities will allow us to further test how alternative education resources can best follow children as they move from early learning to schooling,” Ms Upston says.
“In the pilots, we will be identifying those at risk earlier in their educational pathway, connecting them with the appropriate supports, and strengthening capability to respond more quickly to the needs of students at risk of disengaging. We will also be working with schools and providers to ensure that students currently in alternative education and activity centres are getting the right learning opportunities and the right support.
“Alternative education and activity centre providers and tutors often cite a range of unmet needs that their students require support with before they can re-engage in learning, including mental health issues and dependency on drugs and alcohol. This is often too late in students’ educational pathways to take meaningful action.
“We will be engaging with the relevant national bodies to draw on their experience and expertise in delivering improved social, educational and life outcomes for disengaged young people.
“All of our young people deserve a high-quality education that sets them onto a pathway to realise their full potential and achieve educational success,” Ms Upston says.
The next steps in strengthening the careers system have been announced today by Associate Education Minister Louise Upston.
“Over the next 12 months, the Ministry of Education and the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) will work with Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako and schools that are willing and able to explore new and innovative approaches to deliver better careers education to children and young people.”
“The Ministry of Education and the TEC will partner with the Communities of Learning and schools to deliver careers education at an earlier age that is connected to student aspirations and opportunities in their communities and the world of work,” says Ms Upston.
“We are committed to improving careers education in every school in New Zealand. Communities of Learning and schools not involved will also benefit from receiving improved careers information from the TEC.
“The plan is to ensure that careers education is available to our young people earlier than in the past, and that local and regional career opportunities will be built into the local curriculum.
“Strengthening careers education will make it easier for young people to develop the right skills for the right job. Our expectation is that the change will be a real benefit to regional employers and to regional economies in particular,” says Ms Upston.
“This will build on the Government’s progress in strengthening the careers system through the integration of Careers New Zealand (CNZ) into the TEC, and the publication of school-leaver destination data.”
Ms Upston says the opportunity to explore new approaches to careers education is a direct result of the Government’s decision to shift the provision of careers information to the TEC.
“The change means that the TEC can now provide a single source of careers information that is more responsive, and strengthens the links between education and employment. It also means that the TEC can better tailor information, tools, and services to meet the needs of different groups of people at key transition points in their move from education into the world of work.
“The objective is part of our plan to see children and young people have personalised pathways along their whole educational journey,” says Ms Upston.
A new Prisoner Welfare Governance Board will help Corrections ensure prisoner safety and wellbeing and provide reassurance to the public that prisons are as safe as possible, Corrections Minister Louise Upston says.
The board, which includes three external members, was established and is chaired by the Corrections chief executive to drive and support the department in its ongoing work to improve the safety and welfare of people in prisons across New Zealand.
“Corrections has a duty of care to the prisoners in its custody and I am pleased it has taken this step to look at ways it can improve prisoner welfare and respond appropriately where there are concerns,” Ms Upston says.
To ensure a range of views are heard, three external members with wide expertise and experience have been appointed. They are Te Puni Kōkiri chief executive Michelle Hippolite, former Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem and former Secretary for Justice Mel Smith.
“The establishment of this board should reassure prisoners and the public that concerns about welfare and safety are of the utmost importance to Corrections and that it is always looking for ways to improve its operations. I look forward to hearing more about its progress,” Ms Upston says.
During its first meeting, on 30 June, the board determined initial priorities and discussed enhancing provision of mental health services, services for people at risk of self-harm and suicide, and the safety and welfare of vulnerable people such as older people or those with disabilities.
In September it will discuss a review of suicides and suspected suicides in prisons, services for people with mental health needs and the department’s management of transgender prisoners.
Rimutaka Prison’s Gate to Plate event has been a tremendous success with more than 240 people visiting the prison for dinner, says Corrections Minister Louise Upston.
“In its fifth year, the event has been a sell-out, and I’m delighted with the public’s support,” said Ms Upston.
“Today, tomorrow and Thursday this week at Midland Park in Wellington’s CBD, the same group of prisoners who successfully cooked up a storm for the popular event last week will have their culinary masterpieces on display by Corrections at a bonus Gate to Plate pop-up event as part of the Visa Wellington on a Plate festival.
“I was lucky enough to sample the meal ahead of the event and it surpassed my expectations with a range of different foods and types of preparation, cooking and presentation. I’m looking forward to visiting the pop-up on Wednesday.
“The Gate to Plate events coinciding with Got a Trade week is significant, showcasing that our prisoners are gaining valuable skills to bolster their employability and their successful reintegration into society. This year Corrections have delivered 11 million hours of industry training, education and treatment to prisoners.
“Through their hard work, the prisoners will gain qualifications that will help them get work on the outside upon release. This in turn will help them to live a crime-free life.”
The prisoners created canapés, entrées, mains and desserts and were mentored by celebrity chef Martin Bosley, executive chefs James Pask from Whitebait and Kristan Mulcahy from The Green Man, and Rimutaka’s catering instructors.