City Soapbox, Hamilton News, June 2016
Budget focus on Social Investment
Bill English delivered his eighth Budget last week. It reflected the progress New Zealanders have made through difficult times, a growing economy, and a strong focus on social investment, innovation and infrastructure.
Health was to the fore with an additional $2.2 billion for the sector over four years to ensure New Zealanders continue to have access to high-quality health care.
A $652 million Social Investment Package over four years will help the most vulnerable New Zealanders by intervening early and investing in public services tailored to their needs.
The approach is aimed at meeting increased demand for existing services, helping to keep our young people safer and healthier, and leaving them better equipped to lead full lives into adulthood.
A key feature of the package is the improvement of New Zealand’s child care and protection system with a new child-centred approach which will focus on prevention of harm, intervention, care support services, transition support and preventing youth offending and reoffending. There will be $200 million for new services and support for vulnerable children and young people, as part of a wider $348 million spending boost in the care and protection of our vulnerable youth.
$61 million was allocated to extend the Youth Service to help more young people into training and education; with $50 million to support people into work, including those with complex health conditions; and $40 million to support around 2,500 more whanau in the Whānau Ora programme.
There is $43 million for around 150,000 pupils who have been identified as being the most at risk of educational failure; $36 million for warmer, drier and healthier homes; and $20 million to re-integrate ex-prisoners into the community with appropriate support.
We know from the evidence that if you carefully target early investment in young people, the benefits over a lifetime can be significant - for themselves, their families, and for wider society.
The Budget’s Social Investment Package builds on the National-led Government’s approach to welfare over recent years. The number of beneficiaries has fallen to the lowest level in eight years, while our decisions over the past four years have reduced the welfare system’s estimated fiscal cost to future taxpayers by $12 billion.
Other significant measures included a $761 million package for Innovative New Zealand – a package of science, skills and regional development initiatives to help grow and diversify the economy; and a $2.1 billion public infrastructure package focused on transport, schools and modernising the tax system to make doing business easier.
Our focus remains on achieving better results for Kiwi families and staying on course with a policy programme that's working for all New Zealanders.