Communities to evolve support systems

Models for a sustainable and affordable social support system for families and whānau in New Zealand already exist.

They just need recognition and support.

All of us recognise that the Government’s ability to fund services is constrained at a time when family and whānau support needs are predicted to increase.

How to allocate shrinking resources in a time of increasing need will be a major challenge for the next decade.

It is not about having to come up with something radically new.

Participants at the ‘50 Key Thinkers Forum’ held in May 1011 said that models for sustainable, affordable, engagement with families, whānau and communities already exist.

But these pockets of excellence are often isolated and not connected to the people who make national decisions about funding and resourcing.

As William Gibson said, ‘the future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed’.”

The Forum was organised to understand how social support in New Zealand can continue to best serve families and whānau into the future.

One of the main conclusions was that the solution included less government-down service provision.

The Forum agreed that families, whānau and communities themselves should be empowered to develop, design and deliver the support they need.

Local solutions for local needs often work better than national, one-size-fits-all programmes.

The Families Commission has committed itself to progressing the four key messages that emerged from the Forum:

1. Empowering communities to be active in developing support systems and programmes

2. Sharing knowledge and building relationships so good ideas are grown and innovation is recognised and supported

3. Accelerating innovative practice so individuals, organisations and communities already doing great things can cut through the red tape and get connected with decision makers and funders. The Commission has already started a “promising practice’ programme specifically to achieve this objective

4. Funding and partnering effectively with sound evaluation built into programmes and encouraging flexible, high trust, accounting processes rather than rigid, one-size-fits-all programmes that often do not work for everyone and risk some families falling through the cracks.

The Families Commission hosted the ‘50 Key Thinkers Forum,’ in Wellington on May 11, 2011, as a starting point to ignite and reframe thinking about family and whānau support.

The Forum brought together a collection of innovative thinkers and practitioners from across the social sector to discuss the future of whānau and family support in New Zealand. Speakers included Deputy Prime Minister Finance Minister Bill English and Social Development and Employment Minister Paula Bennett.

Carl Davidson is the Chief Families Commissioner at the Wellington based Families Commission.

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