With help from Action Stations, Gimme Shelter developed a simple question for Social Development minister Anne Tolley and her MP's: Who's in charge of homelessness?
To be more specific we asked:
1) The Minister for Social Development to create specific, effective government policy to tackle homelessness as a distinct social issue.
2) That homelessness is added to the Social Development portfolio to bring New Zealand in line with many other OECD countries.
On the 21st of June, 2017, the Social Services Select Committee heard from James Crow of Gimme Shelter and will return their official decision at a later date.
READ JAMES' Oral submission in support of the petition to Social Services Committee
Members of the committee, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to present this submission today and speak on behalf of the almost 11,000 petition signees I represent through Gimme Shelter, Aotearoa.
As background, Gimme Shelter, Aotearoa is an independent advocacy group focused solely on the issues surrounding homelessness in New Zealand.
Through the petition process New Zealanders were asked if they would want to see the following:
1) The Minister for Social Development create specific, effective government policy to tackle homelessness as a distinct social issue.
2) That homelessness be added to the Social Development portfolio to bring New Zealand in line with many other OECD countries.
During the petition process much has changed in the homelessness landscape, this committee’s finding on previous submissions has somewhat set a precedent for its current appetite around policy. I am also not here to discuss a national strategy for homelessness, as although that is the preferred option by Australia, Great Britain, Canada and most other commonwealth countries, I believe that under the appropriate ministerial ownership of this issue, a national strategy will be a natural progression in the future.
I would like instead to focus on our second point as Gimme Shelter firmly believes that attaching clear ownership of homelessness and defining it under the roles and responsibilities of a single member of parliament will be highly beneficial to tackling this complicated social issue.
It was noted in the Ministry of Social Development's own report into homelessness from 2014 that no government agency has the statutory responsibility for the homeless or related services.
Put simply I ask: whom the minister responsible for homelessness is, or if one is not clearly defined, does this committee believe as I do that this further defining is required?
I have brought this question here today. I'm not a politician, I'm a businessman, and in my own business I have learnt that clear ownership of responsibilities is integral to any progressive strategy. To ignore this fact can easily lead to mismanagement, wasted resources and a struggle to deliver effective results. How government can hope to tackle an issue as large as homelessness without such clear defining of responsibility is beyond me but I’m in business and not politics.
I also ask that this committee take reference from the excellent work undertaken in the creation of the Office for Seniors, which is a prime example of the Ministry of Social Development acknowledging a specific need within the social services that required a separate identity to meet a particular societal group and need. Homelessness is a very similar group with specific issues that often puts the most vulnerable outside the standard reach of social services.
In closing I hope that through this process we can come to a complete understanding of whether this lack of statutory responsibility has improved and where the role of ministerial leadership is seen to be important by this committee.