Government announces new social investment agency to help vulnerable Kiwis

Social Investment Minister says a more rigorous approach to government support for vulnerable Kiwis is needed.
Ross Giblin

Social Investment Minister says a more rigorous approach to government support for vulnerable Kiwis is needed.

The Government is creating a new agency as part of efforts to provide more "rigorous and evidence-based" assistance to vulnerable Kiwis.

The Social Investment Agency, to be launched in July, will encourage greater use of data by social sector agencies when making decisions about what sort of support to provide.

Social Investment Minister Amy Adams said the work was about better understanding the needs of vulnerable Kiwis and how government initiatives affected someone across their whole life, not just in one specific area.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has launched an inquiry into a privacy blunder involving NGO client data.
CHRIS SKELTON/FAIRFAX NZ

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has launched an inquiry into a privacy blunder involving NGO client data.

"Greater use of data and evidence, and a focus on measuring outcomes, means we can create a system that looks for more opportunities to intervene sooner and more effectively."

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The new agency would replace the social investment unit currently operating within the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), and would provide advice to all government departments about which people they should be supporting and how.

"This includes applying rigorous and evidence-based investment practices to social services," Adams said.

It would also develop social investment data models for government agencies and NGOs, so frontline staff could fine-tune and better target their services.

A spokeswoman for Adams said funding for the Social Investment Agency would be disclosed in the Budget. Staff numbers were also yet to be confirmed. The social investment unit had received $6 million over two years.  

Adams appeared to suggest the new agency could absorb government agency Superu (formerly the Families Commission), saying there was "clear potential for alignment with the range of functions currently being delivered through Superu".

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The State Services Commission has been asked to provide advice by the end of July on the future delivery of those functions to ensure the optimal structures are in place."

Adams said the new agency would operate as a standalone organisation with its own chief executive.

A social investment board, made up of the chief executives of the ministries of education, health, justice and social development with an independent chairperson, would be responsible for providing investment advice and oversight of the rollout.

The social investment approach, spearheaded by Prime Minister Bill English in his previous role as finance minister, is based on the intensive use of big data to identify those likely to cost the state a lot of money over the long term and whether the support agencies provide is making a difference.

However, there have already been some hiccups with the approach.

Earlier this month, Social Development Minister Anne Tolley announced an independent review into a privacy blunder involving data supplied by charities to an MSD IT system.

The inquiry came after NGOs criticised a new requirement for them to supply detailed client information in exchange for government funding.

 - Stuff

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