11 Jul 2016

Whānau Ora six years on

8:04 pm on 11 July 2016

After a rocky start six years ago, Māori social service Whānau Ora is reporting strong results at the North Island Commissioning conference in Auckland.

A kapahaka group welcome Whānau Ora manuwhiri at Te Pou Matakana conference.

A kapahaka group welcome Whānau Ora manuwhiri at Te Pou Matakana conference Photo: RNZ / Mihingarangi Forbes

The Whānau Ora family - including the concept's developers Mason Durie and Tariana Turia as well as managers, navigators and kaumatua - arrived at an Auckland Hotel this morning to evaluate the impacts of the kaupapa in its first two years.

After 18 months, Te Pou Matakana - the Whānau Ora commissioning agency for the North Island, and one of three nationwide - reported it was now engaging with 8900 families.

An urban organisation which manages Whānau Ora work, Waipāreia Trust's chief executive John Tamihere said some of those families were dealing with nine separate government agencies and none of them were placing whānau at the centre.

"These are high needs and highly complex families who, if you don't watch it, become $100,000 bednights per year in the criminal justice system - and that's just one ugly cost, the cost of them getting there is just huge."

Manukau Urban Authority chief executive Lance Norman said the initiatives under his watch were simple, but groundbreaking.

Using a truancy programme as an example, Mr Norman explained that when his navigators arrived at a family home they found a myriad of issues from low incomes to overcrowding.

"You might walk into a household [where] the child's a truant but there's only one school uniform - it was raining today, mum and dad don't have a dryer or a heater, so therefore the uniform stays wet and the child doesn't go to school.

"That's not actually the child's problem, but it creates a truancy issue - the issue there is, there is not enough money in the household."

Mr Norman said Whānau Ora navigators had won the trust of families where other agencies had failed.

He said that since Whānau Ora navigators began engaging with families in South Auckland 18 months ago, the picture of poverty was becoming clearer.

The Whānau Ora kaupapa, which is the Māori Party cornerstone policy, had its fair share of criticism and Mr Tamihere said it had been unfairly targeted.

John Tamihere and Bernie O'Donnell.

John Tamihere and Bernie O'Donnell talk at the conference. Photo: RNZ / Mihingarangi Forbes

He criticised apparent double standards in funding, saying Child Youth and Family was a government agency which had failed 18 consecutive reports, but unlike Whānau Ora its funding was not pinned to its success.

"And all of a sudden a failing agency gets another $130m - no measures like us, no accountability like us, not under the constant supervision of watchdogs like us - give us a break."

The conference continues tomorrow with Finance Minister Bill English talking about commissioning for outcomes.

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