12 Nov 2020

Māori social service providers want more funding for Whānau Ora

8:58 am on 12 November 2020

Māori social service providers are pushing for ministries like Corrections to start putting money into Whānau Ora to improve outcomes for Māori, but government officials say this is already happening.

Stock photo.

There are calls being made for more funding for Whānau Ora. Photo: 123rf.com

Manukau Urban Māori Authority (MUMA) runs the reintegration service, Tiaki Tangata, for those coming out of prison in the Northern region.

The 12-week programme provides inmates nearing the end of their sentences with education - including reo Māori training - accommodation and helps them find a job.

MUMA chairperson Bernie O'Donnell said: "As a service provider, we're at the end of a process, of a cycle where they're already damaged and we're getting a bit frustrated - we'll continue to do this, and we're here because of our people, not because of the contract - [but] we've got to get to a point now where we start having proper conversations and start building proper pathways so our people don't go to prison.

"At the moment, we provide these well-being mechanisms and opportunities for them, but we put them back into the same dysfunctionality that they grew up in. We put them back up into the cause of why they end up in there."

He has called for Corrections to look to the Whānau Ora model to turn this around.

"It's one of the strongest kaupapa Māori frameworks that deal with our people's well-being, it's a significant kaupapa and strategy that's happened to our people over the last decade or so, so look to where we're working with Whānau Ora, understand the solutions are there."

Te Puna Ora o Mataatua is a Whānau Ora provider based in Whakatāne.

Chief executive Chris Tooley also supports calls for more funding so Māori social service providers like his can actually fully implement the care plans they design for families in need.

"The problem for Whānau Ora is that it can't implement those services, they have to go to different agencies, providers who have these contracts, who have these services and try and co-ordinate the whole service," Tooley said.

"What would be really great is if these Whānau Ora providers could have these services themselves, and they'd be able to deliver the whole, integrated, holistic plan in one go.

He said at the moment, government agencies were too siloed.

"So you've got providers all around the country trying to pull it all together and deliver this kind of care because this is the care that works for the families and communities and it's just something that we have to do."

Not the first time

It's not the first time people have called for Whānau Ora to be bolstered.

Members of the Māori Affairs Select Committee asked the minister for Whānau Ora, Peeni Henare, in June if his agency could be the first point of call before a child was removed by Oranga Tamariki.

However, he said Whānau Ora didn't have capacity because of increased demands from Covid-19.

The head of Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu, the South Island Commissioning agency, Helen Leahy, said whānau had consistently called for the approach to be across the board.

She said that was what they told Sir Mason Durie in his 2009 report, which paved the way for Whānau Ora.

"Over the years, it has become more aligned just to the Vote Māori Affairs Appropriation.

"The recent calls to expand it are going back to what it always was, which was that there would be support from every sector in order to enable whānau to be self-determining."

Leahy said a 2018 review into Whānau Ora also recommended greater buy-in to the approach.

However, the Ministry of Māori Development, Te Puni Kōkiri, said this work was already underway.

In a statement, its operation director Jesse Roth said $35 million in funding was allocated in last years' budget to support a joint initiative between Whānau Ora, Corrections and the Ministry of Social Development.

The pilot programme, Paiheretia te Muka Tāngata, was currently being designed with tangata whenua, and would rehabilitate male prisoners under 30.

A trial at Northland Regional Corrections Facility would begin in April next year, and in Hawke's Bay Regional Prison in January.

And an over $42m joint initiative between Oranga Tamariki, Whānau Ora and ACC over the next two years was also announced in late September.

Ngā Tini Whetu will provide early intervention for over 800 whānau in need in the North Island, and would begin in the New Year.

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