Families Commission shake up

DEIRDRE MUSSEN
Last updated 05:00 04/07/2014

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A major shake-up of the Families Commission has begun, with nearly two-thirds of its staff facing redundancy.

Last Thursday, 18 staff members were told their positions would be disestablished as the commission responded to law changes introduced in March, which enforced a fresh focus on evidence-based practice.

‘‘If you are spending millions of dollars on this, it’s right that people are wanting evidence about what works and what doesn’t work,’’ chief executive Clare Ward said.

‘‘I want the Families Commission to be doing a job that is making a difference. For me, it’s about improving outcomes for our children, our families and our communities.’’

She hoped many affected staff would be redeployed into new roles in the restructured organisation, which would end up employing similar numbers of staff as it does now.

Some of the 18 workers could apply for nine new roles that would be filled internally, and a further 13 new roles had been advertised internally and externally. 

Five staff had already been reappointed into similar roles and negotiations were under way regarding the four-strong leadership team.

Ward said the new structure was expected to be in place within two to three months and would have 30 permanent staff plus about six or seven on short-term contracts.

In May 2012, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett announced the planned restructure but said new legislation was needed to enforce it.

A key change was that $14.2 million from the commission’s $32.48m funding over four years would pay for a new social policy evaluation and research unit to provide independent monitoring, evaluation and research to measure effectiveness of initiatives for families, she said at the time.

A spokeswoman from her office said yesterday the commission’s staffing was an operational matter. ‘‘However, she is pleased they are realigning themselves in a way that they think will work better in serving New Zealand families.’’

The Families Commission Amendment Act became law in March but faced much criticism from opposing political parties.

The Families Commission was set up as part of Labour’s support deal with UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne after the 2002 election. National opposed its creation, but agreed to continue it as part of its post-election pact with Dunne.

Labour harshly criticised the changes and called for the commission to be ditched in favour of setting up a Ministry for Children and Minister for Children.

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Its social development spokeswoman,  Sue Moroney, said a major failing with the restructuring was that robust research about children and families already existed but the current Government ignored it. ‘‘They are fiddling while Rome burns, in our view.’’


- The Dominion Post

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