Thursday 25th May 2017
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The government has put mental health at the centre of its $321 million social investment programme, which it touts as spending large up front to reduce the long-term costs of problems ailing society.
Social Investment Minister Amy Adams set aside $100 million of that funding over four years to trial early interventions tackling the root of mental health issues, marking the biggest spend for the initiative championed by Prime Minister Bill English as a means of getting the most out of the public sector.
“It’s one of our most complex social issues and it is having big impacts across the employment, housing, health and justice sectors,” Adams said in a statement. “Mental health issues can lead to much poorer outcomes for these people and their families.”
That’s part of a broader boost in mental health spending which is often accused of being under-funded and is shaping up as a key battleground in this year’s election.
All up, the government spending $224 million over four years, including an extra $100 million for district health boards’ health and addiction services, $4.1 million for the Ministry of Social Development to trial integrated employment and mental health services, $11.6 million for Corrections to manage prisoners at risk of self-harm, and $8 million to extend the Rangatahi Suicide Prevention Fund.
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said Cabinet will be considering a new mental health and additional strategy soon which will include the new approach.
Social investment – which uses an actuarial approach to determine the long-term liability of various social problems to then target spending to reduce that cost – is a central piece in the government’s goal to achieve more from a smaller public service and Finance Minister Steven Joyce today tasked the Productivity Commission to investigate measuring and improving the core public service.
English announced the social investment spend at a pre-budget lunch to a Business New Zealand audience, name-checking three of the 14 initiatives seen as benefiting from the actuarial approach.
After mental health, the biggest ticket items on the agenda include $34.7 million to support children with behavioural issues, $32.9 million targeting burglary prevention, and $28.1 million to extend the Family Start home visiting programme.
A new Social Investment Agency is being set up to support the approach, and has been allocated $25.8 million over four years to provide the tools, analysis and advice to implement the initiatives, and a further $12 million in two-year operating funding and $4.8 million of capital spending to set up a new data exchange platform to allow for safe and secure information sharing.
“The new data exchange means using information and technology to better understand the people who need public services, and what works, and then adjusting services accordingly,” Adams said. “What is learnt through this process informs the next set of investment decisions.”
Statistics New Zealand is an important cog in the investment approach, which draws on its depth of information. Some $4.5 million has been allocated over three years to let the department look at new ways of obtaining and providing census information without the cost of a full five-year census.
“Census information is incredibly valuable to New Zealand,” Simpson said. “It helps determine how billions of dollars of government funding is spent in the community.”
Census 2018 has been allocated $111.1 million
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