6 Sep 2016

Govt not convinced homelessness inquiry needed

7:18 am on 6 September 2016

More than 400 stories told to the homelessness inquiry have failed to convince the government the inquiry was needed.

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The inquiry heard the stories of more than 400 people. Photo: 123rf.com

Submissions ranged from the testimonies of people forced to live in caravan parks, to families with severely disabled children staying in motels, to a harrowing account of a mother and five children being left homeless after leaving her abusive husband.

The inquiry by the Labour, Green and Māori parties was launched after National MPs blocked an attempt to get a select committee to hold one.

Wellington social worker Jude Douglas told Labour, Green and Maori MPs at the final hearing yesterday social workers were burnt out.

"When there's nothing they can do to help day after day, their professional and personal integrity gets really compromised and this can become overwhelming.

"I liken it to being a medic in a war zone with no supplies," she said.

Labour Party MP Phil Twyford.

Labour Party MP Phil Twyford. Photo: RNZ / Mei Heron

Labour Party MP Phil Twyford said the government was in denial about the problem.

"The view that's come through from all the submissions is there is a lack of political will.

"The government could fix this problem, but they are so far in denial, that they are reduced to actually arguing about their own official definition of homelessness. That's how much in denial they are," he said.

Prime Minister John Key was not going so far as to say the inquiry was a waste of time, but maintained a homelessness inquiry was not needed.

"Of course it is always important to meet people and hear their story. But we've been doing. If we hadn't had that outreach ourselves, then I'd say 'yeah fair enough', but actually the government's being doing that itself, and doing that for quite some time," he said.

"There's a lot consideration being given to a range of issues and as we've said, if something unique comes out of the inquiry that the government either hasn't considered or the officials think is a good idea, then we'll take that on board.

"I don't think we've seen anything yet that we're not aware of - but let's wait and see."

Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox

Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox Photo: RNZ / Mei Heron

After hearing all the submissions, Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox said whatever the government was doing, it was not near enough.

"Kiwis in this country do not want to live in a country where our people sleep in cars, where our people sleep on beaches. This is not the New Zealand that we were brought up in, that we've grown up in, and it's not the New Zealand we want to see our children grow up in.

"Kiwis are outraged and they must absolutely stand up and bring pressure to bear on this government, as we will," she said.

Despite all their hard work, Greens co-leader James Shaw was sceptical the social services committee would take it any further.

"Because it's a government-dominated committee, it is unlikely it will do anything with it," he said.

"But I have to say that I think the process is still incredibly useful in terms of raising awareness around the country and also helping to inform the policy development of those parties that are engaged in the process,"

The inquiry will prepare a report to present to the select committee which will make recommendations to the government.

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