Labour Party Leader David Shearer has created the post of spokesperson for Social Inclusion for the first time in New Zealand.
I am honoured to hold that portfolio.
I will be asking questions about the reasons for people being excluded from participating fully in society and what needs to be done to ensure that all our citizens have a stake in their communities and neighbourhoods.
With respect to ethnic communities, I will be asking what prevents our migrants from feeling a sense of being part of New Zealand society.
The creation of this role is driven by Labour’s belief that we all do much better when no one falls too far behind and the economy works for everyone.
Social Inclusion policies are a shift away from a sticking-plaster approach to the needs of the most vulnerable to one that produces long-term positive change.
Social inclusion starts with the experiences, aspirations and expectations of citizens in the design of programmes that lead lasting change.
Solutions are formulated on the basis of the best knowledge available and they are monitored for results.
We take a different approach to our communities than the current government.
Where a conservative approach is punitive towards those who are excluded from full participation in society we ask, “What is preventing them from full participation and access to the gifts our communities can bestow on all of us?”
Social inclusion refers to the process that promotes equality of opportunity, maintains social cohesion, builds social capital and minimises social exclusion.
It can capture the imagination of those who have become weary of conventional ways of defining problems and who have become accustomed to not seeing any significant shifts in the life opportunities of our most vulnerable.
People experiencing social exclusion live in different parts of society and are disproportionately located in easily identifiable vulnerable communities.
These communities will be the focus of Labour’s social inclusion initiatives.
Social Inclusion involves communities in setting goals for intervention.
It is more likely to provide government with opportunities to fundamentally change vulnerable communities permanently and break the cycle of vulnerability.
This overarching philosophy and modus operandi can be applied to most objectives of the Government’s social programme.
It will enable the design of a fit for purpose that will ensure its sizable expenditure on lifting citizens out of their vulnerability is more effective than it has been for generations.
Dr Rajen Prasad is Member of Parliament on Labour’s List and is the Party’s Spokesperson for Social Inclusion and Ethnic Affairs and Associate Spokesperson for Social Development.