Health boards, schools may lose funding as Ministries forced to use 2013 census data

New Zealand Educational Institute President Lynda Stuart says accurate census data is very important for school funding.
ROSA WOODS/STUFF
New Zealand Educational Institute President Lynda Stuart says accurate census data is very important for school funding.

Hospital boards and schools may receive less funding as Government departments give up on using 2018 census data for planning and budgeting.  

Census 2018 data will not be released by Statistics New Zealand until at least August this year, with the delay forcing several ministries to use 2013 census data and population projections instead. The initial release date had been set for October 2018, about seven months after census day on March 6. 

​The agency has ruled out a census recount. 

Funding for District Health Boards will be based on the 2013 census data and population estimates as the 2018 census data is unavailable. (File photo)
123RF
Funding for District Health Boards will be based on the 2013 census data and population estimates as the 2018 census data is unavailable. (File photo)

Shifting to an online survey was thought to be behind a drop in responses of about 10 per cent, making the overall results unreliable and incomplete. 

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Statistics NZ said it would use imputation methods, such as replacing missing data with substituted values, to make up for gaps in information. 

Child Poverty Action Group co-convenor Alan Johnson says the poor were most likely to have been missed out in the 2018 census. This could mean some District Health Boards receive less funding.
Chris McKeen
Child Poverty Action Group co-convenor Alan Johnson says the poor were most likely to have been missed out in the 2018 census. This could mean some District Health Boards receive less funding.

Ministry of Health group manager District Health Board (DHB) performance and support Sam Kunowski confirmed the Ministry would use the 2013 census data and annual population projections to determine funding allocations. 

"The Ministry is comfortable using the projections based on the 2013 census as the best information currently available."

The Ministry of Health was unable to comment on confidence in the 2018 census data until Statistics NZ had finished work to make it "as robust as it can be".

Health systems expert Robin Gauld from Otago University called for a re-count to be done as census data determined how 75 per cent of the health budget was carved up. 

Many populations had changed significantly since 2013, he said. 

"It could have fairly profound implications for a DHB off a $1 billion dollar budget - if you're a per cent or two off, that's $10 or $20 million dollars, the difference between surplus and deficit." 

With the 2018 census data unavailable, the Ministry of Education was unsure how it would determine decile rankings and the equity index for early learning services - measures to allocate funding tied to the relative deprivation of school communities.

"We are currently working through our options, including alternative measures that we have been working through with the sector," deputy secretary evidence data and knowledge Craig Jones said. 

Schools could apply for a review of their decile rating but this would currently be done using the 2013 census data. 

Alternatively schools could conduct their own survey "to collect more recent information about the household circumstances that make up the decile calculation", Jones said. 

Teachers union New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI) said decile rating accounted for three per cent of school budgets but in a constrained environment this portion was still significant. 

"If they are looking at using 2013 census data then yes potentially schools' [funding levels] could stay the same and yet communities do change so it's obviously highly problematic...," NZEI President Lynda Stuart said. 

Child Poverty Action Group co-convenor Alan Johnson said poorer households were more likely to have been missed out in the 2018 census data.

The most concerning potential result was less funding for those DHBs with higher numbers of poorer residents, such as Counties Manakau and Bay of Plenty DHBs. 

"What you will get in places like South Auckland is there might be 10,000 - 15,000 people missing from the count - well the DHB won't be getting funded for them so them and everyone else in that area will struggle with less funding."

The Electoral Commission said it would use eligible voting age population estimates based on 2013 census data to make decisions about where to use resources for enrolment and voting services.

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